BATHURST’S home of rugby league – Carrington Park – is set for an upgrade.
However, it’s a far cry from dreams of having the ground transformed into a stadium, which was all the talk during this year’s NRL match between the Penrith Panthers and Cronulla Sharks. Instead, more humble sums of cash have been earmarked to replace all the seats in the grandstand.
Opened in May 1989, the grandstand is clearly in need of an upgrade and, according to Bathurst Panthers Rugby League Football Club president Dennis Comerford, the seats had been “beaten up” by the weather and were faded, perished and cracking.
“The sun and weather goes right in under there,” he said. “You can see where we have tried to clean up the seats a bit, but they are way past their use-by date. They were there since day one.
“Any improvements at the ground are welcomed as a good initiative for footy. There’s been all this talk about a stadium, but in my opinion that’s pie in the sky stuff.
“Say a stadium cost $40 million? How often would it get packed out to justify this big a spend? I reckon $3-$4 million would fix up what we already have into something pretty special and more justifiable.
“You could still host the NRL matches with Penrith, who have made a five-year commitment to play an NRL game each season here. There could also be A-League soccer and other important events.
“The location of Carrington Park is ideal because it’s close to the central business district, but the surface would also need a bit of work to cope with really wet weather.”
Mr Comerford said the other side of the ground, opposite the grandstand, could be concreted and tiered and could handle a lot of people and on the big game days it would be easy to put up the marquees to handle the demands for corporate hospitality.
“Apart from the big games, that part of the ground really isn’t used at all.”
Mr Comerford said Bathurst Panthers use the ground every second week for home games, plus the pre-season knockout and trial matches.
“We’ve tried to get City v. Country games, without luck, but we keep on trying every year,” he said.
During the Panthers v. Sharks match in late July, mayor Gary Rush said the region needed a ground that was fitting of the NRL and other top class sporting events, like the A-League soccer.
Cr Rush said he and Cr North met with NRL chief executive officer David Smith towards the end of last year to discuss their expectations of a city like Bathurst when it comes to showcasing the wares of the sport.
“Looking to the future, we want to ensure Bathurst is the number one regional centre for big-time sport. Our Destinations Bathurst push needs this. Part of the challenge for us is to not only protect what we have, but to enhance it,” he said.