Already suffering from a 30 per cent drop in gate takings this season, Maitland Pickers have received another blow after learning they are unable to play their last three home games on their beloved No.1 Sportsground.
Club president Frank Lawler says the forced move to Coronation Oval at the start of the season has cost the club $30,000 in gate takings and left team morale at an end-of-season low.
Mr Lawler’s comments come after this week’s council decision to deny the Pickers their last three home games on the revamped ground.
After much fanfare when the $8.6m new ground was unveiled, the club has been unable to get on the facility to train or play due to problems with turf, despite earlier assurances from council a June kick-off was on the cards.
Mr Lawler said the move to Coronation Oval and the resulting 30 per cent drop in game day takings hit the club hard.
“It’s a bit of an honesty system at Coronation,” he said.
“We have someone manning the gate but it’s easy enough for people to access the ground from South Street cemetery or the area near the railway line. They drive their cars up to the fence, bring their own beers and watch the game.
“How are we supposed to police that?”
Mr Lawler’s comments were supported by star Pickers player Luke Dorn, who said players had trained all year at Coronation Oval with the belief they’d finish the season at the new facility.
“It’s very disappointing, the players have held up their end of the bargain,” Dorn said.
He said the lost revenue could have played an important role in attracting players to the club.
Council’s infrastructure and works manager Chris James said in a report to this week’s council meeting that the playing surface at No.1 Sportsground required further preparation works.
“Although the playing surface appears complete it still requires a program of work to ensure its viability for the long term,” Mr James said.
“The period between now and spring is needed to undertake surface preparation works to ensure the maximum benefit during the critical spring regrowth period.”
“The work put in at this time will have a significant impact on the quality of the surface for the 2018 winter season,” Mr James said.
The works include:
- installation of sand drains which should only be undertaken with an established turf cover. The drains are programmed to be installed in August/September followed by two top dressings of the field.
- a program of weed control, slow release fertiliser, pesticide and root development improvements over the next six months.