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Friday, April 15, 2011

Christchurch earthquake threatens winter sport

Christchurch earthquake threatens winter sport

Last updated 05:00 16/04/2011
Player numbers for sport in Canterbury this winter appear down by up to 15 per cent, according to the region's newly appointed sport recovery manager, Vaughan Utteridge.

That equates to about 8000 participants across the winter codes who play outdoor and indoor club sports, which are all kicking off this month. Figures from Sport Canterbury note that 77,000 people played organised winter sport last season.

Utteridge, who has been tasked with helping sport recover, has just begun a two-year contract for Sport Canterbury, who themselves have been displaced from their usual home at QEII's Village Green pavilion and are operating out of the Elmwood Bowling Club.

Utteridge says the reasons for the downturn in participation, which comes as no surprise, are many.

"Many have left town, some for good, while others are unable to get involved in any organised sport given their circumstances.

"Some have difficulty travelling to parts of the city that have been badly affected, but we believe that over time things will settle down and those numbers will increase again.

"Obviously, the eastern side of town has been hit the hardest, but other areas including North Canterbury are also feeling the effects."

Utteridge believed there were sufficient playing fields to cope with demand despite some Christchurch City Council facilities being off-limits.

Indoor sports were also feeling the squeeze with a number of school gymnasiums out of action, plus the QEII Leisure Centre which hosted premier basketball and netball. Gym time is at a premium.

"It is difficult trying to get things sorted out at high schools at the likes of Aranui and Shirley and that will take time."

The Christchurch City Council reports that 75 to 80 per cent of their 90 parks are open.

A council spokesman said it may mean some matches have to be played on Sundays and at different times. Liquefaction had been scraped off grounds not otherwise damaged and many were ready to be played on again.

Rain is likely to be a factor. "We are managing but when we get some downpours we are unsure just exactly how the ground will react."

In recent wet winters many grounds in the city, built basically on a swamp, were out of action for weeks.

Utteridge is urging both players and spectators to keep a lid on any frustrations they may be tempted to take out on the field. "Everybody is under pressure one way or another at the moment and everybody just needs to take a step back and not get caught up if tempers are getting frayed."

A number of sports were so badly hit, some for a second time after September 4, they were taking the chance to assess how they functioned in the future.

Utteridge said Bowls Canterbury was undertaking the exercise after 21 of the 37 clubs experienced significant damage, and was investigating amalgamations.

Canterbury Tennis has had its Wilding Park headquarters ravaged by the quake and Canterbury rowing has again been hard hit at Kerrs Reach.

- The Press

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