East Maitland Athletics and Little Athletics Centre has been forced to cancel several of its events after inadequate lighting sparked safety concerns – but council won’t fix the problem until next year.
The local club had to freeze discus and shot-put events last week after several people were nearly hit during a session at Metford Oval.
Despite multiple calls to council in the past month, committee members were told that the lighting wouldn’t be fixed and daylight savings would be starting soon.
Committee member Geoffrey McLaren said the young athletes were the ones who suffered with the inadequate lighting.
“Two weeks ago, we had our first competition night and the lights still weren’t working,” Mr McLaren said.
“We were trying to to run discus and shot-put in the dark, and it was a big safety issue. A few people were nearly hit because the athletes couldn’t see where they were throwing.
“And it’s nearly impossible to record anything because you can’t read the measurements.”
With over 100 members, the club is one of the biggest in the Hunter Zone. It hosts competitive events every Tuesday from 6pm.
“A representative from Little Athletics NSW raised a few other safety concerns including the car park being pitch black,” Mr McLaren said.
“We are going to lose three out of six months.
“It’s not going to help the kids on either end of the season. It’s the athletes who lose out.”
But they aren’t the only group affected. The ground is also used by Maitland Senior and Little Athletics Club on Fridays from 6.30pm.
Mr McLaren said the committee was concerned the inadequate lighting could have larger ramifications for the club.
“We are trying to build athletics up, and it’s pretty hard when we are competing against soccer and league – all the other big sports,” he said.
“Then we try and get new people in but they can’t do half the events because the ground isn’t lit properly.
“We aren’t having a shot at council … it worries us that we are going to lose more athletes to other sports because we don’t have an adequately lit ground.”
The athletics centre was established in 1983, and currently only has youth athletes.
Previously, Maitland Council had installed a new fence and shed at the ground.
But council’s community and recreation manager Laurie D'Angelo said Metford Oval had “recently been inspected by council officers and all infrastructure at the facility is in good working order”.
“Metford Oval has been identified for lighting improvements, which are scheduled for next year,” Ms D’Angelo said.
“In addition, we are also planning for a new storage facility at the site as part Council’s Capital Works Program.
“Council continues to work with the athletics club and other users of the facility to ensure the best result for all user groups at the site.
“It is an exciting time for the local athletics community particularly with the $10.5 million redevelopment of the Maitland Athletics Facility at Smyth Field.”
Construction on the project is expected to begin before Christmas, and will include a new 400 metre synthetic track and associated field facilities.