Cars out of the Park

2015-01-07 00:00

AFTER many years of speculation and accusations, the final curtain has fallen on Alexandra Park as the venue for Pietermaritzburg’s best loved car show.

Cars in the Park, which has been held in Alexandra Park for the last 39 years, is moving to the Gold Circle Horse Training Centre in Ashburton for its 40th event.

Speaking to The Witness yesterday, Junior Fouche, chairperson of the Vintage Sports Car Club, which hosts Cars in the Park, said the biggest problem with Alexandra Park was logistics surrounding the event.

“I know I’ll get a lot of flak because of it, but things have to change sometime.”

Asked if he thought local people would make the trip to Ashburton for the show to be held on May 17, he replied: “It’s debatable. Everyone wants to be inquisitive though. We’ve done our homework and spoken to hundreds of people and they all support us. Things have got bigger and we have to put our foot down now and take control.”

Fouche said there were manifold challenges with the Alexandra Park venue.

He said the entry and exit to the park became very congested and parking was a major problem.

“The old cars waiting in queues boil. Everything goes wrong. There’s no parking and it’s chaotic.”

Fouche said there had also been issues around upgrades scheduled for Alexandra Park by the Msunduzi Municipality, but he was unable to get any information on when these would take place. This meant it was difficult to plan for the event, not knowing if construction work would impact on their car show.

“No one can tell us anything.”

Fouche said it was “nigh on impossible” to control the 40 marshalls he had to employ for the event as well as the huge crowds who attended.

He also bemoaned the fact that every second year, they had to compete with Comrades Marathon for storage space at the park. “It’s an absolute nightmare.”

He said in the event of any emergency situation it would be impossible to evacuate the area at Alexandra Park. “There would be congestion at the exits and with people panicking then we’ll be in trouble.”

Another important factor in the move is that the park did not allow for expansion.

“People tend to forget that men come with wives and children. They get long faces looking at cars all day. We would like to add a flea market and a play area with jumping castles for instance. We need space for that. We have been lacking in that aspect in the past.”

In a letter about the move, the club described the Ashburton Training Centre as an “ideal location”, and said an agreement has been signed with Gold Circle for all future events.

“Although the venue is not in central Pietermaritzburg, it falls within the municipal boundaries and is only about 11 km from the existing venue.

“We are confident that the venue will more than meet our needs and more information and details of the event will be circulated in due course.”

The Witness has previously reported concerns that the organisers of Cars in the Park had become disillusioned with Msunduzi after the park was in a state of disrepair and neglect for previous car shows.

Fouche said the name Cars in the Park is registered and will remain the same.

“Bear in mind that conditions out there are very park-like.”

Dumisani Mhlongo, director of Msunduzi Pietermaritzburg Tourism, said there seems to be concern from organisers about uncertainties regarding pending development at Alexandra Park and space limitations resulting from this.

“The current condition of the park remains a concern for all park-based activities including Art in the Park that has been affected by, amongst other things, the loss of trees there.

“We have noted that as the event grew, it attracted a lot of locals and youth who will be affected by distance and transport [to the event in Ashburton],” said Mhlongo.

He said he was consoled by the fact that Msunduzi was not losing the event entirely as the new venue is still within its jurisdiction. He said he hoped the local economy would still benefit from it.

Msunduzi Municipality spokesperson Thobeka Mafumbatha said they were not aware that the organisers of Cars in the Park wanted to move the event to Ashburton.

She said the plan to revamp the entire park had been discussed with the Cars in the Park representative.

The present representative was assured that the bulk of the area previously used had been booked for the event, she said.

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