Dreaming, scheming for Hagley Oval's big day

MATT RICHENS
Last updated 05:00 15/02/2014
Lee Germon
Fairfax NZ
MAN IN CHARGE: Lee Germon has a lot on the line.

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Fast forward a year to February 15, 2015, and Lee Germon is waking up a very happy man.

It is a Sunday morning and while the Canterbury Cricket boss probably won't be heading off to church, his prayers have been answered.

New Zealand hosted Sri Lanka in the opening match of the Cricket World Cup the day before and Germon's baby, Hagley Oval, is receiving rave reviews.

Rupert Bool's pitch played its part and the "sold out" signs hung on the fences that enclosed 20,000 happy fans.

There might have been a protester or two but there were also plenty of people who realised the benefit of having a cricket ground with international capabilities and a major sporting event back in the city.

A lot can happen in a year but, today, Germon is confident that scenario won't be far off the mark.

Hagley Oval has got a long way to go but he is relaxed about how the development is coming along.

Germon captained New Zealand to the 1996 World Cup but his influence on this one will be bigger.

The 45-year-old former New Zealand skipper has ridden the emotional rollercoaster on this project. He was for a redeveloped Hagley Oval before the 2011 earthquake and, to his credit, has stuck steadfast to his goal.

He expected a bit of push back but not as much as he got and he seemed to age during the stressful Environment Court process which ultimately came out on his side last year.

Always chirpy anyway, Germon seems a bit more relaxed now.

Those against the development might suggest he has got the cat-that's-got-the-cream smile but it is more than that.

Like Germon or not, like his idea or not, you have to admit the man has done a lot of work for something he believes is for the betterment of the city.

He still has a lot on the line, so it is understandable he laughs and pauses before answering when asked if he is completely stress-free about the build of the pavilion and embankment ahead of next year's Valentines Day World Cup opening game.

"I wouldn't say it's completely stress-free but I'm happy with how things are tracking," Germon said this week.

"It's all on schedule."

That schedule includes having the grass embankment completed by the end of April and the grass sewn.

And the foundations for the new Hadlee Pavilion are set to go down in the next couple of weeks.

"We've had a couple of issues with construction but there's been no significant time delay and it's all on track."

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The money is there for all the works to be completed too.

Well, sort of.

"The trust [Canterbury Cricket Trust] has secured a level of funding to allow the project to be completed," Germon said.

And completed on time.

"That includes an underwrite aspect to it."

A "private underwriter", who wishes to remain anonymous, has promised to chip in for any shortfall in funding to ensure the development goes ahead.

What a generous soul.

Germon indicated it was unlikely to be needed as the trust's fundraising was going well.

The Christchurch City Council have put in to the tune of $1 million to help build the embankment and develop the pitch, with the latter already done.

The pavilion will cost $9m, while the retractable lights are another $8m, but Germon said that was something likely now to happen after the Cricket World Cup.

The consent to build the light towers lasts five years. And at the end of it all, all the drama, protests, hearings and court cases, Christchurch will have its picturesque, very English, village cricket ground. In the middle of the city.

It will hold between 10,000 and 12,000 people without temporary seating, and up to 20,000 with it.

And it will be 20,000 for the tournament's opening match. The city's other two matches, between Pakistan-West Indies and England-Scotland are likely to sell out too as World Cup fever builds. Public ticket sales opened yesterday.

Organisers might need those "sold out" signs a couple of days earlier too when Christchurch hosts the opening ceremony.

The Press understands that showpiece is likely to be on February 12 next year, to allow more players to be there.

Planning for that aspect of the tournament is still in the embryonic stage but it is likely to showcase Christchurch and New Zealand to large portions of the cricket-playing world so it is important it is done right.

And with all the hullabaloo about Hagley and how it will hold up, how the traffic management plan will cope and whether people will still be able to get to the hospital (of course they will - there will be fewer people at Hagley Park for the cricket than for Sparks in the Park), there will be trial runs.

Hagley will host warmup games featuring more than minor nations.

The Black Caps will play at Hagley pre-tournament as will South Africa.

Germon has requested a test and a one-day international next summer pre-Christmas, and a test match could prove the perfect soft opening for the ground.

The gentle medium pace of a test could uncover a few things that need a tidy-up before the out-and-out pace of a one-day game.

The ground looks like a worksite now - because it is - though cricket was played in the middle of it last week. There is still plenty to do but it is all on track.

Cricket World Cup boss Therese Walsh keeps a close eye on it; it is her reputation on the line too. And she is happy - cautiously so as she knows there could be things pop up in the next 364 days.

"I'm confident we're all going to plan and will be finished when we aim to be. But we need to keep a constant eye on it. I'm confident too though because there's a huge emotional buy-in from everyone involved and that's going to make up for any little kinks that appear."

So she's watching closely as are many others, from the International Cricket Council, to players, to councillors and council staff, those against it and, most importantly, the fans. But no-one is keeping as close an eye on it as Germon. It might be called the Hagley Oval officially and have the Hadlee pavilion on it, but it is Lee's Legacy too.

- Fairfax Media

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