Financial fears as Alexandra loses cricket

The failure to appoint a permanent turf manager for Molyneux Park has meant a cricket game has been relocated to Dunedin, which could have dire financial ramifications for the town of Alexandra.

Summer cricket games have been an institution in Alexandra until recent years and the relocation of this game, scheduled for December 29, has left motel units empty as well as leaving the town without one of its main summer drawcards.

"Cricket in Central Otago has always been huge. People from Southland use it as an excuse to come here and it brings a huge amount into the town," owner of Centennial Court Motor Inn and Promote Alexandra chairman Shayne Hitchcock said.

"A couple or few thousand people come to watch the game and they might not come now either," he said.

He had both the Otago Volts and Northern Knights teams booked into his motel, it was "pretty much 100% full" and he had been turning away other accommodation seekers.

But now, with the teams no longer coming, he said he doubted if he could make up those bookings.

He said the teams had made up "about 60%" of his bookings, worth thousands of dollars.

"[We] need to rely on those busy times to get through winter ... it's [the loss of the game] just another one of those things the town can't afford to lose."

He said Promote Alexandra had planned a week-long Summer Daze festival around the game from December 26 to 31.

Though the festival, which includes events such as a swimsuit competition, a talent quest and farmers market, will still run, it might be too soon to organise another event to run in place of the match.

Alexandra resident and cricket fan Brian Bruce said he felt Alexandra was "just used" this year to hosting a match after losing two matches two seasons ago due to the standard of the ground.

It was the first time in 30 years there were no top-level games at Molyneux Park.

"It was always going to go that way. They just used Alexandra last ... [season] because the Dunedin one [University oval] was being done up.

"It's just weird because at Christmas time all the crowds from Dunedin come up here for the races, the cricket and stuff, then they take it away. It's weird."

Earlier this year, the Molyneux Park Trust dissolved and passed management of the park back to the council, which contracted Asplundh as caretakers, former chairman of the trust Wayne Soper said.

He said Asplundh had advertised nationally for a groundsman but had not been able to find a suitable candidate.

Former groundsman Wayne Walker left the position on October 14 and Colin Buttar, an experienced groundsman, was standing in, but after an inspection last week, New Zealand cricket withdrew its warrant of fitness for the turf until a permanent turf manager was appointed.

sarah.marquet@odt.co.nz

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