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Mid Canterbury Rugby’s Plea To Council For ‘Premium Facility’

Mid Canterbury Rugby wants to shift across town to a “premium facility”.

And they want the Ashburton District Council to help them to do it.

Mid Canterbury Rugby Union chairperson Gerard Rushton presented a personal submission to the council’s long-term plan this week and spoke of the union's desire to establish a new base at the EA Networks Centre.

Rugby and the council need to start to plan for the EA Networks Centre greenspace development as rugby’s “present tenure at the showgrounds is unstable with the financial viability of the A&P association”, Rushton said.

“Rugby has funds ready to go and invest now, but council seems reluctant to future-proof the community by providing this facility.

“We are probably the only sport in Mid Canterbury that has concentrated on building a balance sheet to ensure we have got a future and that is probably to our detriment.

“The sports that haven’t concentrated to strengthen their balance sheet to ensure their future just get looked after by the council.”

He called for the “equitable development” of the EA Networks Centre for all sports.

Rugby is the biggest sport in the district “but the council won’t actually help them out”.

“We have other sports they are prepared to fund a whole new building for. Is that equitable?

“We just have to give everyone the same deal”.

In building the EA Networks Centre, Rushton said the council set a precedent of building facilities for sports without the sports contributing capital.

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Extending the EA Networks Centre sets that precedent again while the rugby union has been told it would have to contribute 50% of the capital to fund developing a facility in the green space, he said.

Rugby involves 25% of the community on any given Saturday and is the only Heartland union that doesn't have a council-provided facility, he said.

The council will hold a separate hearing on the EA Networks 30-year master plan in June.

Rugby wasn’t the only sport to make a plea to the council in the long-term plan.

Basketball Mid Canterbury’s Mark Douglas submitted in support of the proposed stadium court extension, although he would prefer it sooner than construction in 2029.

Basketball has no problems finding players but struggles finding court space, he said.

The growth of basketball has wider impacts, as the recent hosting of the under 14 tournament was estimated to have contributed $750,000 to the local economy, Douglas said.

More courts means bigger tournaments and a bigger input into the economy, he said.

It was a similar message from Netball Mid Canterbury.

President Angela Mitchell said netball is thriving but is operating at a capacity with the available court space, turning away players and teams this year.

Netball committed to being based at EA Networks Centre when it opened, moving all netball indoors. It has no plans to go back outside, and has benefitted with a growth in numbers that has now hit a ceiling.

Additional courts will allow them to continue to grow but will also benefit other indoor sports, She said.
“We don’t want to dominate all of those courts.

“It’s not just about netball, we want to be able to play alongside other sports.”

Former Sport Mid Canterbury boss Jan Cochrane presented her plea to extend EA Networks Stadium with concerns around demand and cost escalations by 2029.

“As time moves on the dollars move up. We’ve seen it on the bridge.

“There would be a [rates] increase but to delay would be a massive increase.”

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