Council drags feet with KZN Inland over ABJ

2009-06-24 00:00

BESIDES the urgent issue of KZN Inland Hockey Association’s strongest club, Maritzburg Varsity, fielding non-student players to the detriment of the health of the other clubs, there is another matter with which the KZNIHA are grappling.

Without a clear mandate from the owners (the municipality) of KZN Inland Hockey’s AB Jackson headquarters and world-class Greenfields synthetic turf field, the provincial governing body is struggling to maintain its upkeep.

Association president Gary Carson and his council have asked the municipality for a management contract whereby the KZNIHA would take “ownership” of the ABJ facility. The responsible ward councillor, Judith Lawrence, said in a letter to The Witness on June 4 that a meeting she arranged with the municipality earlier this year saw consensus reached that the best way to tackle the “many problems associated with the AB Jackson” would be for the KZNIHA to have “full control” over the facility.

This would require a long-term lease with the municipality.

Lawrence said the KZNIHA have applied to the Estates department for such a lease, “but it will only be dealt with by that department once they have completed the new evaluation roll”.

”That should be done by the end of the month [June] and then, hopefully, the lease application can be dealt with and the hockey association can take full control and also be able to do long-term planning.”

Lawrence also mentions that the municipality’s maintenance budget for the sports fields under its jurisdiction is “relatively small and is possibly not used in the most effective way”.

The councillor is to be commended for taking up KZN Inland Hockey’s plight, but it seems no one else at City Hall is aware just what a gold mine the AB Jackson facility is to the PMB economy.

Since its inception in the nineties, the ABJ has hosted dozens of national tournaments, bringing thousands of visitors to the city. Its link with the world-class Pape’s Astro 300 metres down the road at Maritzburg College gives PMB a unique advantage for staging big tournaments.

This year alone, the KZN age-group girls’ tournament brought 20 teams from all over the province to PMB for three days. Add officials and supporters from outside the capital and you have well over 400 people spending money in the city.

Early July sees 32 teams plus supporters coming to PMB for the U13 national festival, followed in mid-August by the men’s national tournament.

City hall needs a wake-up call.

With eight SA tournaments taking place, Inland league is on a six-week break.

Result: Varsity A 6 GHS Old Girls B 0.

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