No.2 Sportsground to close for maintenance, two months after opening

LESS than two months after it was officially opened, the $7.25 million No.2 Sportsground has been closed due to concerns over the safety of the playing surface.

Newcastle City Council, in conjunction with major tenants Newcastle and Hunter Rugby Union (NHRU) and Wanderers Rugby Club, agreed to shut the ground to all sport to enable urgent maintenance work to be undertaken.

The playing field will be rolled, levelled, top-dressed and fertilised to try to stimulate grass growth and is not expected to be reopened until September 7, the second week of the NHRU final series.

Lord mayor John Tate opened the facility, which includes NHRU administration offices and club rooms, on May 20.

Since then a combination of constant traffic and wet weather has led to the deterioration of the ground, creating bare patches and a shifting surface.

A council spokesperson said the decision to close the ground was supported by the stakeholders and was standard practice for an immature field in that condition.

The council will undertake the work through its maintenance program at no cost to Wanderers or the NHRU.

‘‘The main concern was player safety,’’ the spokesperson said.

‘‘They are not replacing the turf, but if they had left the field open that would have been required down the track.’’

NHRU general manager Fenton Coull, although disappointed at the closure, said it was the only option.

‘‘The traffic on it has been fairly constant since it opened,’’ Mr Coull said. ‘‘It got to the stage this week when we walked on it that it was more than unsafe and player welfare came into it.’’

Wanderers train twice a week and play home games at the ground.

Today’s game against Maitland has been shifted to Marcellin Park, Lorn, and the club is discussing venues for its remaining two home games with the council.

Training has been moved to No.5 Sportsground under portable lights, which the club has hired.

‘‘In our view the ground was unsafe,’’ Wanderers vice-president Michael Noonan said.

‘‘We also had to consider the long-term use of the ground, not just for Wanderers but rugby in general and the other sports that use the facility.

‘‘Hopefully it is managed appropriately over summer and is in A-grade condition next season.

‘‘The biggest issue for us is training. We have had to hire lights at a considerable cost and even then the quality is questionable.

‘‘The old lights from No.2 are sitting on the ground waiting to be erected.’’

Wet weather is playing havoc with Hunter sporting competitions.

Newcastle, Lake Macquarie and Cessnock councils have again closed most of their playing fields today and tomorrow, leaving local football associations to play catch-up before their finals start in August.

Newcastle Jockey Club will inspect the Broadmeadow track today before deciding whether this afternoon’s race meeting will go ahead.

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