Mayor sings Palmerston North's praises as Spanish women's football team skips town
After being snubbed by the Spanish women's football team, the mayor of Palmerston North has entered the fray to defend his city's reputation as an international sporting host.
ESPN citing sources reported the city's lack of things to do had taken its toll on the Spanish team and family members, who made the decision to relocate to Wellington from Manawatū ahead of their FIFA World Cup match in the capital against Japan on Monday night.
"Team officials stressed that they enjoyed their stay there and were made to feel at home, with sources praising the people, their hotel and the facilities at Massey University, where they've been training," the ESPN report said.
"However, the lack of things to do in the area has taken its toll. Families, including some players' children, are staying with the squad as part of a pre-tournament agreement with the Spanish Football Federation but, along with the players, have found there is little to do, especially in the evenings."
But a Spanish team spokesperson told the New Zealand Herald they questioned the source of the claims published by ESPN, adding that the team had been "happy and comfortable".
Palmerston North Mayor Grant Smith said Argentina's national rugby union team loved their time in the city during the 2011 Rugby World Cup and were just one example of a number of international sporting groups who offered up positive press.
"We host a lot of high performance sport, so we're not immune to hosting sport," Smith said.
"The Pumas based themselves here in the same way Spain have.
"And we received glowing reports. The high performance centre at Massey has been used by many different international teams.
"The Spanish are just another one of them, and we wish them well in the rest of the tournament and they're very welcome to come back so we can show them what Palmy has to offer."
While the Spanish side were searching for bustling events and activities, Smith said "Palmy" was comfortable in its own skin with an award-winning esplanade, stunning rose gardens and New Zealand's premier miniature railway.
"We're not a big city, we're not a Madrid, we're not an Auckland, we're not even a Wellington," he said.
"We're a mid-sized New Zealand city and we've got a lot to offer from a regional point of view."
He said Victoria Esplanade, the city's park, had just received an award. The park hosts the Central Energy Trust Wildbase Recovery, providing shelter and rehab for native birds and ancient tuatara.
"There's so much to do for families."
But there were no hard feelings towards the Spanish team.
"At the end of the day, Spain chose Palmerston North and they've left a couple of days early, and we're fine with that," he said.