Sharks' Kids Zone to honour James Small

Sharks CEO Eduard Coetzee has helped to make James Small's dream of a world-class Kids Zone at Jonsson Kings Park a reality, writes SIMON BORCHARDT. Eighteen months ago, Coetzee – then the Sharks chief operating officer – was chatting to the former Natal and Springbok wing about how to get more youngsters to attend rugby matches. Coetzee mentioned he had just read an article on eSports (organised, multiplayer video game competitions) and Small said he knew someone involved in it in Johannesburg. Small suggested establishing an eSports club at Kings Park, which Coetzee thought was a great idea. ‘James was instrumental in starting our eSports league last year,' says Coetzee, a former Sharks prop. ‘He spoke to [ex-Sharks and Springbok hooker] John Allan, who works for Cashback World, and John was able to organise some money to set it up. They got a shipping container and 10 PlayStation consoles, and kids played eSports inside the container at the stadium on match days.' Small and Coetzee then began to talk about developing a proper Kids Zone at Kings Park. However, before they could make any concrete plans, Small tragically passed away, in July last year. ‘I didn't want to let James' dream die with him,' says Coetzee. ‘So I spoke to a couple of our sponsors, Ola ice cream and Thirsti water, and said we wanted to build a world-class Kids Zone, because James had been a world-class competitor and a world champion.' And they have. The Small Zone – as it will be called – is expected to open this Friday, when the Sharks host the Bulls in their first match of this year's Super Rugby tournament. It will be situated at the bottom of the North Stand, behind the posts. [caption id="attachment_14294" align="alignnone" width="400"]Kids Zone The pool for the Kids Zone before the supertubes were installed[/caption] ‘The Small Zone is a great name because it honours James and also refers to the size of the kids who will enjoy it,' says Coetzee. ‘The Zone will consist of an eSports gaming lounge with 10 PlayStation consoles. There will also be foosball and table tennis tables in the games area. ‘We plan to have a creche for children under the age of six. There will be a soft play area for them and changing tables. Next to the creche will be a 300m² coffee shop – the Zone will be an alcohol-free area. ‘The glass stacking doors will open out onto an astroturf pitch and one level down will be an antique wooden deck. Where the old scholar benches used to be, we've built another pool – we already have one on the other side for the Beach Club – and will have two supertubes coming down from the first level of seats into the pool. [caption id="attachment_14295" align="alignnone" width="400"] The wooden deck at the Kids Zone[/caption] ‘There will be a “beach” with beach sand of about 25m in length and the last 30m will be astroturf where we can put inflatables like jumping castles. The total length of the Zone will be 70m. ‘There will also be a staircase that goes from the Small Zone up to the first level of seats. So a parent can drop their kid off at the Zone and then sit upstairs and watch the game. We will man the doors and are speaking to ADT about providing security so kids can't leave the area without a parent.' Coetzee says the Sharks will offer family packages for the Small Zone with season ticket and match-day ticket options. ‘The prices will be very reasonable,' says Coetzee. ‘We plan to partner with the trust for James' children and hopefully we can put a certain amount of money generated by the Small Zone into it every month.' [caption id="attachment_14293" align="alignnone" width="500"]Kids Zone The Kids Zone at Kings Park, which is expected to be finished this week[/caption]