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Squash score worth millions

By Penny Miles
Manawutu Standard

Palmerston North will host the 2010 World Women's Teams Squash Championships - an event that will bring up to $3 million and world exposure to the city.

The city's beaten Auckland and Nelson to get the event. Palmerston North's bid was helped by an endorsement from eight-times British Open Squash champion, Dame Susan Devoy.

The winning bid was led by businessman and SquashGym Palmerston North's Grant Smith.

"Susan Devoy backed us ahead of Auckland and she came out strongly and said to the Squash New Zealand board: 'Why are you even considering Auckland?'," Mr Smith said.

He wasn't initially sure that Palmerston North had won.

"I got a mobile phone call from the chairman in the car. By the way he started the call I thought, 'oh dear, he's giving us the Dear John letter'.

"I thought he was letting me down slowly, then he said the board have decided you've got it."

The Palmerston North City Council, Sport Manawatu, and Destination Manawatu supported the bid.

Joss Urbahn, a Palmerston North- based world referee, and Peter Fowell were part of the planning process.

Destination Manawatu chief executive Kathy Gibson said it was a complex bidding process.

"We were very keen to put our hands up following the successful world junior championships."

Mr Smith said an economic study showed the event could inject $2.5m to $3m to Palmerston North's economy.

The tournament will cost about $350,000 to run. Money will come from sponsorship, team registrations, ticket sales and other grants, including those from trusts and gaming funding.

The council will contribute $20,000, as will Sport and Recreation New Zealand (Sparc).

The world tournament, to be held during the last week of November and first week of December in 2010, will be followed a week later by the 2010 World Deaf Squash Championships. This will have further economic spinoffs for the region.

Mr Smith said Palmerston North was positioning itself as New Zealand's home of squash. Adelaide and Manchester have done this in Australia and England.

"They're cities off the beaten track that have become the squash capitals of their nations."

An international media contingent will attend, and the event is likely to be televised in Egypt, Pakistan, India and Britain. Negotiations were ongoing for New Zealand television coverage, through Sky and Maori television.

Games will be played using SquashGym Palmerston North's eight glass-backed courts.

Mr Smith said there would be upgrades to SquashGym's hospitality areas.

There are also plans to bring in portable glass squash courts, to locations still to be decided. The glass courts are see-through from all sides, making it easier to film and watch the games.

Three of these glass courts were used in Palmerston North at last year's world junior championships.

The world women's tournament is held every two years. It was held in Egypt last month, with teams of four players from 24 nations. The New Zealand team, with world No 10 Shelley Kitchen, finished fourth.