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Gardner's seeds show new life

Posted in Facilties and Funding

Arriving on the Hover Ferry into Ryde, the weather did not look promising for the official opening of the Newclose County Cricket Ground - the rain from the previous night had not cleared and the clouds looked threatening.

The garrulous taxi driver assured us it would clear up as we set off for the ground which rather unhelpfully he had never heard of. The penny finally dropped for him when we mentioned it was the new development outside of Newport.

The ground was a hive of activity as we drove into the impressive facility. Mike Scott the general manager welcomed us into a clubhouse which most county teams would be proud of.

After a guided tour around the premises and a close inspection of the finishes by members of the Funding and Facilities department, we were invited to spend some time with Brian Gardner, the benefactor.

With support from the England and Wales Cricket Board, grant funding was secured from the National Sports Foundation and an interest free loan was obtained from the England and Wales Cricket Trust.

Gardner was then able to turn his dream into a remarkable reality as he proved to be the driving force that provided the Isle of Wight with a first class cricket facility.

Looking around, it was clear Newclose has a lot more to offer than just a cricket ground with cricket camps running throughout the summer and opportunities for businesses to get involved with the impressive new construction through events and promotions.

The project team worked in close consultation with the ECB’s Funding and Facility department to ensure the building at Newclose meets all the relevant ECB and Sport England technical requirements.

Newclose County Cricket Ground

The technical guidance is offered to ensure the enjoyment of players and spectators alike. ECB requirements include such considerations as a minimum size of change rooms and separate shower facilities to acknowledge the needs of different cultures. Other design features are sightlines onto the playing area from the change rooms, a separate changing facility for the umpires and provision for the scorers.

With VIPs arriving and preparations feverishly underway for the celebratory match in the afternoon, the weather relented and the sun came out to reveal the ground at its best.

Chief guest Mike Gatting, Managing Director of Cricket Partnerships, opened the pavilion and noted in his address that a facility such as Newclose would provide a resource of exceptionally high quality and stimulate cricket participation on the island for many years to come.

Talented cricketers would have the opportunity to play on superior surfaces which would help them develop their game, he said. Everyone was hugely impressed and is keen to see top level cricket played at the County Ground in the very near future.

This was followed by a keenly contested game between the Brian Gardner XI and the MCC which included past and present talent on both sides. Players on both sides commented on the quality of the pitch and the game ended in an honourable draw in blazing sunshine. A closing dinner to round off the opening and a late night ferry ride back to the mainland was all that remained for the invited guests.

The energy and commitment that the project team has put into this development will mean an expansion in the quantity and quality of cricket played in the Isle of Wight and a legacy which will survive the test of time.

I’m sure it will also mean that the next time we visit Newclose, the taxi driver will immediately know where to take us.