World Cup could ruin track season


Next year’s track and field season could be “ruined” if athletes are not able to use Saxton Oval during the ICC Cricket World Cup.
A requirement of the Cricket World Cup contract with Nelson City Council gives them exclusive use of the cricket oval, athletics track, pavilion and the infield of the track from 21 days prior to the first match and ten days after the last one – which has left Athletics Nelson and Athletics Richmond wondering whether they will be locked out from January 26 until March 15 – the peak of the athletics season.
Athletics Nelson running coach Greg Lautenslager, who acknowledges the importance of the Cricket World Cup to Nelson, hopes some sort of compromise can be made on days outside of the three matches. “There’s no doubt about it, the World Cup will be a great thing for Nelson and it’s wonderful that it’s here but we have one track in town and if you take that away during the heart of our season you’re basically ruining the sport,” he says. “Without the track you don’t have the sport so a compromise needs to be made.”
Saxton Oval was last year granted three ICC Cricket World Cup games for 2015, including West Indies versus Ireland on February 16, Zimbabwe versus Scotland on February 19, and Bangladesh versus United Arab Emirates on March 5.
NCC communications manager Angela Ricker says they have made contact with Athletic Nelson, advised them on the situation and signalled a willingness to work together positively to help find alternative options. “The decision is final as part of the commitment to host CWC matches. Any possible alternative venues for athletics are yet to be decided,” she says.
Athletics Richmond president Jason Stack had not heard from council when he was phoned by Waimea Weekly. Richmond Athletics, which focuses mainly on junior athletics, could lose its third term. “We haven’t been notified of any of this,” he says. “It’s also ten days after they don’t want us to use the track, which is ridiculous. We’ve been treated pretty unfairly really.”
It’s unknown whether moving athletics competitions back to a grass field is a realistic option, even though Trafalgar Park was used prior to the construction of Saxton Oval. “The average public can jog around but doing sprint work, the throwers, the jumpers, they need the track. The biggest hit will be the meets. If we don’t have them we don’t have a season,” says Greg.
Each club pays a fee to use the track, depending on how many athletes they have registered.
Greg was dumbfounded as to why athletics clubs would be shut out for nearly 50 days when there will only be matches on three of those. “We understand how big the Cricket World Cup is, but we don’t understand why it’ll be taking that whole time. You’re not even going to play cricket on the track, it’s next door.”
The athletics season generally runs from October until March, with athletes peaking for the New Zealand Track and Field Championship at the end of March each year. Locally, Twilight Series meets, junior competitions, the Tasman Secondary School Championship, and a Tasman/Canterbury Championship could all be jeopardized under the current contract agreement, and Jason fears the sport could lose athletes. “We don’t want to resort going back a grass track when we have this million dollar track here. It’s all up in the air. I just can’t see why we can’t use the track on the days there aren’t games.”
Representatives from the two athletics clubs had planned to meet last night in order to find a solution.