By Gary Caffell

Anybody who ever questioned the wisdom of spending big money on the installation of an artificial turf and lighting at Masterton’s Memorial Park some three years ago have well and truly had their doubts erased.

The $2.1m re-development has been an outstanding success under the umbrella of the Wairarapa Multi Sport Stadium Trust, both in terms of usage and financial viability, with the prospect of greater growth to come in both areas.

There is little room to increase the use of the turf during the winter months with rugby and football taking up 25hrs to 30hrs a week between them.

There are about 100 rugby and 40 football competition matches played there each winter and football trainings are a regular occurrence as well.

Wairarapa-Bush Rugby Union chief executive officer Tony Hargood said the artificial surface, which has just been given a full bill of health from an independent consultant, had been a godsend for his code, and football too.

“We all knew how beneficial it would be but it’s probably actually exceeded expectations,” Hargood said.

“It’s already more than paying its way, and that’s something which has happened earlier than a lot of people thought possible.”

At the same time, however, sporting usage during the summer months could certainly be increased.

Right now it amounts to about 10hrs per week with touch rugby leading the way and Hargood is hopeful that local cricket administrators could be encouraged to play some of their junior games there, games in which mats could rolled over the top of the turf to protect it.

And he is also encouraged that the success of other events held on the turf like the Ladyhawke concert and the world record haka attempt will be a precursor to more events of that kind being staged there in summer as well.

The value of the artificial surface to Masterton and its surrounds hasn’t been lost on other sporting organisations either with the South Canterbury Rugby Union, for one, now looking seriously at installing a similar turf at their Alpine Energy Stadium.