A MAJOR upgrade of facilities at Taree’s Jack Neal Oval will be a step closer on Sunday when the ground is officially handed over to Taree City Rugby League Club by its owners, Taree Leagues and Sports Club.
This will be the culmination of four years of negotiations between the two clubs.
Taree City will now have control of the ground for the next 25 years in 5 x 5 year segments, as agreed to by the two bodies in the lease signed late last year.
Taree City president Mal Dixon said an official handover is planned for Sunday when the Bulls host Macleay Valley in the second round of the Group Three season. At the time of going to press no time had been announced for the handover, although Mr Dixon said it would probably be at halftime of reserve grade or before the first grade.
Representatives from the leagues club and Group Three will be invited while Member for Myall Lakes, Stephen Bromhead is also understood to be attending.
Mr Dixon admitted it has been an at times frustrating process, caused in the main by bureaucracy.
There was a further hiccup for the club when a black beetle infestation badly damaged the ground’s playing surface – regarded as the best in Group Three – during summer.
Mr Dixon said work carried out by leagues club greenkeeper Anthony Minihan and assisted by Taree City committee members has rectified the problem.
The club carried out improvements at the ground in the past 12 months, including lighting, a new electronic scoreboard and internal fencing. Further work on the dressing shed area has been completed under the Work for the Dole program.
Mr Dixon said the club’s ultimate aim is a 600 seat grandstand with plans already drawn up for the project. He said the club will continue to apply for funding, with the next round due in May.
Mr Dixon revealed that under the plan the grandstand would incorporate the existing building that has been there since the Neal Oval (then Group Three Leagues Ground) was opened in 1966. It was then the headquarters of Group Three Rugby League and was the venue for all games in the semi-final series. This remained the case since a change in the group’s policy regarding semi-final allocations in 2002.
“We’ll upgrade the building with new dressing sheds and a canteen area along with storage,’’ Mr Dixon said.
“And we’ll have a roof that faces the right way.’’
Mr Dixon said last year he was confident the new stand would be built withing four years. He remains optimistic this will be the case.
He’ll seek a meeting with MidCoast Council after the local government elections set for September. Mr Dixon said previously the ground will be available for use by other sporting clubs in the area, describing it as a ‘community asset.’