Rail Jam is punted off the Rec Ground

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NZSki has pulled its controversial plan to use the Queenstown Recreation Ground for its Winter Games Rail Jam. 

Strict turf conditions imposed by ground operator Lakes Leisure – which needs the field for Rugby World Cup minnows Georgia and Romania to train on a month later – became unworkable, disappointed NZSki marketing boss Craig Douglas says. 

The popular event will now again be held at Earnslaw Park in Queenstown Bay. 

Douglas says NZSki had intended protecting the ground with matting. 

“But other things came in that took some of the control away from us,” Douglas says. 

“Lakes Leisure might want more and if things didn’t pan out weather-wise or whatever, they could just call it off. 

“We started out just looking at the playing surface and it started to balloon out to being about the whole surroundings.” 

Wakatipu Rugby Club had accused Lakes Leisure of inconsistency in allowing NZSki to run the Rail Jam on the Recreation Ground. 

That’s because the club is being turfed off its home ground this month to protect the playing surface for the RWC. 

Douglas says NZSki intended growing the Rail Jam by holding it on the Recreation Ground. 

“Our resource consent application was based on attracting 10,000 to 12,000 people, and the viewership we know the Winter Games can deliver us is enormous.” 

In addition to freeskiers and snowboarders riding ramps and rails, NZSki intended adding snow motocross bikes.
That element might not fit on smaller Earnslaw Park, Douglas says. 

“If we can’t get any more people in to see it, it doesn’t have the same attraction for us to put it on.” 

Lakes Leisure events manager Jason Marrable says RWC has “very high specifications for their venues”. 

They affect both the playing surface and surrounds, he says. 

“We gave [NZSki] the specifications that they needed to maintain the Recreation Ground to, and they chose not to proceed with their event [there]. 

“NZSki weren’t willing to take the risk of damaging the turf – we have too many variables, like, grass won’t grow in winter.” 

Marrable says he hopes the Rail Jam can be accommodated on the Recreation Ground next year.