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Losing track, community loses out

Date Released: Wed, 27 February 2013 10:00 +0200

A Rhodes University sport facility that serves the wider community is being worn down due to a leaking reservoir, and the municipality is yet to get stuck into the problem.

The leaking reservoir above Rhodes’ Prospect Field athletics track is also wearing down the athletes who use it as the uneven surface has caused a good few injuries since last year.

Rhodes grounds and gardens manager Mark Hazell explained that wet conditions on the track deoxygenate the soil, preventing new grass from growing.

This has caused patches of dry soil to appear in between the grass, which has some tough consequences for those who need the track to train.

A drain was recently installed to divert the leaking water, Hazell said, while plans for an extended drain are awaiting budget approval.

Rhodes athletics coach and sprinter Antonio Blom said he and other athletes are frustrated that nothing has been done to fix the problem.

The track’s uneven surface has resulted in a number of athletes getting injured over the past year, affecting their ability to perform.

“How are we able to perform at our best like this?” Blom said.

Head of sports administration at Rhodes, Mandla Gagayi, said the leakage was first noticed and reported to the municipality in December 2011.

The problem became progressively worse towards the end of last year, with no word back from the municipality or any attempts to fix it.

However, Makana municipality’s acting manager of water and sanitation services Bonga Mpelwane denied that he or his technicians were aware of the leaking reservoir.

When Grocott’s Mail contacted him recently he cited a miscommunication within his department as the reason for this, having only recently joined the staff at this division. But miscommunications such as these affect more than just the Rhodes athletes.

With limited infrastructure and facilities for local schools in the area, Prospect Field is the hub of all track events in Grahamstown. Gagayi said that for the past month the track has been used on a daily basis.

Various schools including PJ Olivier, Victoria Girls’ and Amasango Career School have held their athletics championships there, as well as recent the Grahamstown district high school and primary school athletics championships.

Excessive use does not allow enough time for the grass to recover, also contributing to the track’s deterioration.

In 2007 Rhodes made a R12 million application to the National Lottery Board to fund a tartan track.

They were only able to fund R4m, which was then re-directed to the fencing and irrigation of fields on campus.

With the National Lottery Board now restricting funding to a maximum of R2.1m per university per year, chances of installing a tartan track are slim.

By Fabio De Dominicis

Photo by Stephen Penney

Source: Grocott's Mail

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