BLOW UP: Packaworld sold 25 of inflatable bocce courts to be used at Asia Pacific Special Olympics.
A Wellington businessman is hoping his revolutionary product for the sport of bocce, world sport's third most participated game, will get the ball rolling on his range of inflatable sports equipment.
Packaworld, a provider of a range of blow-up sporting goods, has recently secured a contract which will see its specially designed inflatable bocce courts used at this year's Asia Pacific Special Olympics.
Bocce is an Italian sport similar to bowls or petanque, and in 2011 about 217,000 Special Olympics athletes participated in bocce events around the world.
"Word has started to get around the Special Olympics community about this new product as it addresses a major problem that the bocce community face - availability, portability and the set up of bocce courts."
The frame can be inflated in just over seven minutes, and once deflated can be stored in a bag.
"It's an opportunity now, in December I've got 32 countries coming to use them which I can then distribute to."
Special Olympics New Zealand sports and coaching director Mike Ryan said the national bocce tournament required the shipping of a 60-foot container full of wooden planks.
The new product ticked all the boxes for the sport in terms of storage, ease of assembly, and the game itself, he said.
"It's a helluva lot easier shipping these things than a whole lot of planks.
"One of the biggest challenges that bocce as a sport has is traditionally the weight has been a real issue around storage and the manhandling of the walls that are up around the bocce court."
He said bocce was the fastest growing sport within the Special Olympics.
"We now see this as something that will maybe open a few doors and maybe people will think about taking up the sport of bocce because you've taken away one of the main barriers."
Roberts first began importing the inflatable sports equipment from a Chinese manufacturer, though early products were mainly football goals.
A variety of football academies, schools and clubs had since started using the goals and the product range had expanded to include miniature rugby posts and water polo goals.
He had used the same technology to develop the bocce prototype, with the product made in China.
Roberts had also recently developed inflatable advertising hoardings which could improve safety.
The inflatable A-frame signs were interchangeable with lycra sleeves which could be fitted over the top of the frame.
"If you Google accidents with hoardings you will see some horrific injuries. People have come to me, especially recently where there's been a few incidents with people running into signage systems and stuff, and they're really keen."
article by Hamish McNicol - Fairfax Media