Sports clubs’ sticky wicket

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The Queenstown Cricket Club’s hoping the $12,000 it’ll have to pay to use council grounds next year will mean better service.

Last week City Hall hiked its fees for community facilities, parks and reserves, among other things, after a public submission process.

Cricket club boss Emma Campbell says for them, per ground, they’ll pay $2100 – up from $1400 – meaning, per season, they’ll be paying double.

She’s hoping, though, that’ll also mean pitches will be ready for the 2019 cricket season, unlike this year.

This year’s season began in October – for the first month the 12 Queenstown teams only had three of the six grounds available because of the time it takes to prepare them after the winter football season.

That’s making it difficult to grow the club – and the surface standard is falling, she says.

“Four years ago, when I first started, our grounds were fantastic.

“If you drive past now, they just don’t look as tidy.

“It does go down to a lot of overuse, we’re trying to manage that, but I guess for the client which is us, or the community, we’ve gone backwards a bit.”

Wakatipu Rugby Club committee member Damien O’Connell agrees – he told a council hearings panel on the proposed fee hikes last month the grounds aren’t what they used to be.

“We used to have the best grounds in Central Otago, by far.

“If prices are going up, I do believe the community will want a better playing surface.”

O’Connell says maintenance is a big issue for grounds which aren’t recovering between seasons.

That’s got a lot to do with increased demand from the growing community, he says.

“The cricket pitch is used in winter for football [and] it gets hammered.

“By the time it comes around to cricket season … it’s not up to scratch.”

Council’s community services head Thunes Cloete says price hikes are needed due to the “level of investment required to maintain and improve levels of service”.

On that, Campbell and O’Connell say there’s work to be done.

Due to “health and safety” requirements, cricket club members aren’t even allowed to touch the ground covers – once council contractor Delta pulls them off on a Saturday morning, they have to stay off, even if it rains.

That results in games being washed out, Campbell says.

“It’s madness.

“What’s the point in having them [ground covers]?

“The problem with it is they [contractors] don’t work weekends, so once they take the covers off on a Saturday morning, they go home.

“So if we wanted to play Sunday or if we get rained out in the afternoon for seniors … that’s the end of the game.”

tracey.roxburgh@scene.co.nz