An innovative inflatable bocce court produced by New Zealand company Packaworld International has the potential to revolutionise the global sport of bocce.
Chair of the Special Olympics Bocce Sports Resource Team Mike Ryan said inflatable ‘Packabocce’ courts have been “a revelation” for the sport since their initial production. As Special Olympics New Zealand Manager of Sports Operations, he had seen bocce prosper since their introduction.
As the courts are 60 feet long and 12 feet wide, and were previously composed of wood or Plexiglas, their storage and transport posed significant issues for the uptake of the traditional Italian sport in countries without established facilities.
“We found the biggest barrier to the growth of bocce and the uptake by our clubs was the equipment. So the prospect of portable, inflatable courts that can be set up relatively quickly anywhere there is a flat area, taken down and stored was very exciting.
“Bocce is an immensely important sport for disabled and Special Olympics athletes because participation is not dictated by build or physical capability. It is a great platform for athletes with a disability to participate on the world stage, and this change will allow more programs around the world to start considering bocce as part of what they offer.”
Ryan said the inflatable courts have produced great results for Special Olympics New Zealand, with the required storage space reduced from a shipping container to a large trailer.
Opportunities for use of the courts at the Special Olympics World Summer Games were also being explored after successful trials at the 2013 Special Olympics New Zealand Summer Games in Dunedin and the Special Olympics 2013 Asia-Pacific Games held in Australia.
Packaworld CEO Peter Roberts said he had initiated the production of inflatable Bocce courts as a solution that would help people bring the game of bocce to a wider range of sportspeople and communities around the world.
"Traditionally bocce has been a very difficult sport to offer because it required large purpose-built courts that were not widely available. This led to our development of the inflatable court system which we've affectionately called ‘Packabocce’," said Mr Roberts.
"It's never been easier to play bocce as the courts are portable, storable and take very little time to set up. This is why this solution has been so successful for a sport largely supported by passionate volunteers”.
He said the courts are rigid once fully inflated, and have already proven popular with the American Special Olympics Bocce Team, in addition to American Special Olympic organizations, local sports leagues and recreational players.
A successful relationship with the American Bocce Company, who are leading a revitalisation of the sport across the USA through the use of Packabocce courts in their social leagues, has led to the setup of a distribution centre in Chicago.
Mr Roberts said the Special Olympics Bocce Rules had changed in July 2016 to accommodate materials other than wood and Plexiglas, and his company’s innovation represented a great opportunity for the development of the sport if the mainstream Bocce community wanted to follow suit.
Packaworld’s inflatable courts have also recently been adopted by Carnival Cruise Line in America and P&O Cruises in Australia as part of a suite of inflatable recreation products.
Bocce is a participation-based sport similar to pétanque and lawn bowls. In addition to Packabocce courts, Packaworld produces a range of packable, portable products including inflatable advertising hoardings and sports goals, available at www.packaworld.com.