Expensive makeover for iconic stadium

14 June 2017

Historic St George’s cricket ground set for a massive revamp to lighting and facilities Night excursions to the cricket in Port Elizabeth will never be the same again, with Eastern Province Cricket embarking on a R39-million upgrade of the St George’s Park stadium.

Cricket South Africa this week announced plans to revamp and upgrade eight stadiums around the country, with R350-million earmarked for the project.

St George’s Park is set to benefit from the initiative which is also being backed by the Nelson Mandela Bay Municipality. EP Cricket chief executive Mark Williams confirmed yesterday that the project had started in January and was now in the process of being implemented.

St George’s Park is the oldest test venue in the country and its last upgrade happened around the 2003 Cricket World Cup hosted in South Africa.

The revamp will include:

•    State-of-the-art floodlight upgrading to the value of R25million;
•    A brand new R7-million LED TV-style scoreboard;
•    The steelworks of the Duckpond stand which has been corroded over time;
•    Upgrade/refurbishment of suites in the Duckpond Pavilion;
•    Bucket-seating to replace the benches in the old stand;

Upgrade or refurbishment of the Graeme Pollock Pavilion, players’ suites, media centre, indoor centre ablutions, chalets, boundary wall and entrance. Williams said CSA would cover the bill up front and the municipality would assist in repaying the money.

This was confirmed by city manager Johann Mettler, who said the decision would be discussed at today’s council meeting.

“It is our stadium, so all upgrades incurred are on us,” he said. “We took the decision at the mayoral committee meeting last week and it will be tabled in council [today].

“We intend repaying the money over a period of at least three years. There is significant funding set aside for this in the next financial year that is included in the budget. “Should the decision be approved in council, a budget adjustment will be made for this year’s funding.

“There are a few general things that will be worked on and the lighting issue which, should it be attended to, would ensure we have day-night games and put us in good standing to host tests.”

The decision by the municipality follows a similar one taken in April, when the cashstrapped Eastern Province Rugby Union was bailed out of its liquidation debt by the municipality. That deal will see R15-million paid to the EP Rugby Union over the next three years.

Williams said: “We are making this investment because we want to secure at least a 10-year agreement with CSA for the use of the venue for the T20 Global League. This will go a long way to creating sustainability for the city’s stadium.

“In fact, if we don’t do anything about it, in terms of the Safety Act no events will be able to take place at the stadium. “So what CSA has done is commit the full amount of money and the city has committed to supporting the stadium for the repayment.

“It’s basically an investment in the stadium, which is an investment for the city. “This is an iconic stadium, not just for Port Elizabeth and South Africa, but also internationally.

“Our intention is that, over time, the stadium generates enough income without the public purse having to come in and assist us,” Williams said.

Port Elizabeth is set for a bumper cricket season, with the all-new T20 Global League (seven home games over a six-week period in November-December), a test against the Australians in March and a possible one-day international against India.

The eight T20 Global League city-based franchises will be announced on June 19 and Port Elizabeth has been identified as one of the possible eight.

A maximum of six players, either international or Proteas players, will represent Port Elizabeth in the city-based franchise for the T20 Global League.

“We are excited about the upgrades,” Williams said. “Since the beginning of the year, we have had preliminary work done and now we are into the implementation phase.

“So the whole stadium upgrade has been under wraps for a while because we wanted to have good governance until things are in place – and now we are ready to rock and roll.

“We have a tight deadline and, by September 30, we need to have all the compliance issues sorted out. “With regards to the lights, we have to thank our municipality for stepping in.

“The current LUX [measuring of illumination] level is about 800 at the centre of the field. “For ICC regulations, it has to be 2 500. So we are way off the international standard.

“That is one of the reasons we cannot get day-night internationals here at the moment. “Upgrading the lights will allow us to have night ODIs and T20s,” he said.

“There is a possibility that two new masts might be required to meet the international standards. “The scoreboard is a significant investment. “There are four stadiums in South Africa that require new scoreboards. “We have consolidated this into a single purchase agreement to reduce costs.”