Who should pay for the Seddon Park upgrade?

Hamilton club cricketers will get a rare chance to play on Seddon Park this weekend.
Hamilton club cricketers will get a rare chance to play on Seddon Park this weekend.

Cricket bosses and councillors are divided over whether cricket fans should help pay for a must-have upgrade to Hamilton's Seddon Park.

The Hamilton City Council has won the right to host three one-day matches at Seddon Park as part of next year's Cricket World Cup on the condition the park's player and match official facilities are upgraded.

The upgrade to the off-field facilities will cost $727,400, with work scheduled to start in May.

In a letter to the council, New Zealand Cricket chief executive David White said the upgrade was integral to international cricket coming to Hamilton.

As well as the upgrade being a condition of the city hosting World Cup matches, White said: "it is fair to say that at some stage in the not-too-distant future the official and player facilities may have also precluded NZ Cricket from scheduling international matches in Hamilton".

Last year the council agreed to allocate $270,000 toward the Seddon Park upgrade, with the Northern Districts Cricket Association tasked with funding the balance.

Yesterday the council's external funding subcommittee approved funding applications to three funders, totalling $250,000. Council general manager of events and economic development Sean Murray said Northern Districts was "actively progressing" sponsorship and fundraising options.

If sufficient funding was not sourced, the upgrade might not go ahead and would put the future ability of Seddon Park to host international cricket at risk "including Hamilton's hosting of matches as part of the Cricket World Cup", Murray said.

Hamilton Mayor Julie Hardaker told the subcommittee she was confident cricket bosses were doing everything possible to attract funders but reiterated it was Northern Districts' responsibility to fund the balance of the upgrade cost.

Deputy Mayor Gordon Chesterman said it was important the council be kept well briefed on the outcome of any funding applications, and suggested Northern Districts follow the example of Hamilton Airport and add a surcharge to the price of tickets.

Adding $5 to the cost of tickets would quickly solve any funding shortfall and would mean the council could apply for less money from trusts, Chesterman said.

In reply, Murray said NZ Cricket operated in a "price-sensitive market" and adding $5 to the cost of tickets could be the difference to fans attending matches.

Speaking afterwards, Northern Districts Cricket Association chief executive Peter Roach said he was confident that, between themselves and the council, the upgrade would go ahead.

The association was actively exploring a number of funding opportunities but had not discussed adding a development surcharge to ticket prices.

"While there is an opportunity to do that, I think there are other models that would better suit us," Roach said.

"Raising ticket prices isn't our ideal situation, in fact it's the opposite.

"We're trying to make cricket more affordable not less."

Roach said work had already started on transforming Seddon Park into a community hub for cricket and the proposed upgrade would further enhance opportunities to do that.

Waikato Times