Memorial Park in Masterton. PHOTO/FILE
A lack of changing room facilities at Memorial Park has wrecked Wairarapa United football side’s pre-season plans, and long-time senior men’s coach Phil Keinzley is on the verge of walking away from the job.
The Chatham Cup-winning coach said on Wednesday a Pacific Islands player trialling with the club last week was appalled – “he said he may as well go home because this was more Third World than he had at home”.
Keinzley is extremely frustrated with the lack of action following the closure of the Sir Brian Lochore Stand at Masterton’s Memorial Park in January, after a shock engineering report found it needed earthquake strengthening.
The stand – owned by the council – will be closed for up to six months and Keinzley has told Masterton District Council he will leave if it can’t provide the club with the facilities it needs.
The closure means changing rooms and toilets are off limits, and he is adamant a solution should have been found by now, with the first Central League game of the season less than four weeks away.
“It’s getting to the ridiculous stage now – I’m really getting angry with the procrastination that seems to be happening.
“We’ve been bringing in players to look at in trials, and we can’t even provide a toilet or changing shed – you can only imagine what is going on in their minds.”
Keinzley has been busy trying to build a squad capable of mounting a serious challenge for the Central League and Chatham Cup titles, but the uncertainty surrounding the facilities at the park have made that much harder than usual.
“[Tuesday] night it was raining, and you can’t even have a shower and get changed.
“It’s so bloody primitive – if you were choosing between two different clubs, who would you go to?”
He said it was already putting the team on the back foot for its 2018 campaign.
“We haven’t been able to have any pre-season games at home, because we can’t bring an opposition team here at the moment without facilities.
“If something is not done in the next week, I believe I will lose players.
“A number of years ago, we ended up playing all of our home matches in Upper Hutt, and I’m not going through that again.”
Council chief executive Pim Borren said the council was well aware of the issues raised by United, and was doing everything it could to resolve the situation.
“We’re looking at a couple of possible solutions, but whatever we do will need to be approved by Capital Football.
“The frontrunner at the moment is the use of the YMCA for changing facilities.”
He said the council would do everything in its power to make sure United’s home games could be played on Memorial Park, but getting the grandstand up to scratch was its first priority.
He said it was likely to cost about half a million dollars of unbudgeted funds to fix the stand, and the council did not have money to address every issue.
“It’s an unusual situation we’ve been put in and we understand it’s an inconvenience, but we’re comfortable we’re doing everything we can to reach a resolution.”
United player and former Wellington Phoenix representative Paul Ifill said the current situation was a “shambles”.
“It’s a safety issue as well – if they’re training on the turf and get cuts, you can get yourself in trouble if you don’t wash it out quickly.
“We don’t want to give up on it and have to move elsewhere.”
He said it was a problem they could deal with while they were only training, but that would change once the season officially started.
“It’s not ideal – we’ve got quite a few players from the region in our teams, but some have to travel.
“If I turned up and they said there were no showers or toilets, I wouldn’t want to stay.”
Wairarapa-Bush chief executive officer Tony Hargood is another who is eagerly awaiting a solution to the situation, but he said it was a process they were still working through.
“We’re still working with the council to find the appropriate resolution.”
Wairarapa Multi Sports Trust board member Bob Francis said they were working closely with the council to try and find a quick resolution, hopefully, in the next few days.