Rugby stadium falls dark

2011-12-06 00:00

WOODBURN Stadium, the headquarters for rugby in Pietermaritzburg and the Midlands, has become a white elephant.

Crippling electricity charges have resulted in the lights being disconnected at the stadium and the excellent pitch on the main field is out of bounds after dark.

The complex is owned by the KZN Rugby Union (KZNRU) and they have made it available to 10 clubs in the Pietermaritzburg area for evening practices, matches and for the development of the game in the Midlands.

But the electricity bill to the Midlands Rugby Sub-Union (MRSU) has more than trebled in three years, with the Msunduzi Municipality’s rate for Woodburn Stadium being more than double the amount paid by Durban for the use of the King’s Park complex.

Piet Herbst, president of the MRSU, told The Witness yesterday that they had been forced to turn off the stadium’s floodlights. “Our account for October was R89 000 even though the season is over.”

Herbst said that Woodburn was paying a bulk rate of R2,45 per kilowatt hour. The small business tariff is 53 cents.

“The KZNRU has kindly bought us a generator for the outside fields and players can at least practise out there at night.

“We are now paying the small business tariff to run the electricity to our offices in the grandstand and we hope this will reduce our electricity bill to about R17 000 a month.”

The KZNRU executive committee warned back in August that Woodburn faced closure if steps were not taken to plug this financial drain on amateur rugby.

Pete Smith, the KZNRU CEO, said Woodburn is “a serious concern”. The KZNRU’s total budget for club rugby in the province is about R4 million and this was allocated to 70 clubs in the five KZNRU sub-unions.

The cost of the Woodburn complex resulted in a disproportionate amount — about a third — of the total grant going towards the 10 Pietermaritzburg clubs while the other 60 clubs in KZN were clearly disadvantaged.

“We have the best rugby facility in the whole KZN midlands, but we can’t use it because we can’t pay for the lights,” said Herbst. “Woodburn Stadium is now a white elephant.”

Herbst pointed out that Woodburn is a facility for the public of Pietermaritzburg. “Many towns and cities provide sporting facilities for their communities. Here the KZNRU have provided Pietermaritzburg with an excellent facility, but we cannot even get help from the city for the lights.”

Woodburn was once the vibrant headquarters of rugby in the Midlands, hosting four premier league clubs while attracting high-profile games and big crowds. But with the emergence of professional rugby, the game in the capital has taken a steep dive.

And now the lights have gone out over Woodburn Stadium.

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