Ambitious plans to improve and expand Guildford CC’s Woodbridge Road home, for wider county cricket and community use
From ‘Get Surrey’ by Richard Spiller, 30 May 2014 http://www.getsurrey.co.uk/sport/other-sport/cricket/surrey-county-cricket-club-guildford-7191281
Surrey County Cricket Club want to make Guildford CC’s Woodbridge Road their southern base.
Chief executive Richard Gould is meeting Guildford Borough Council officials in a bid to bring protracted negotiations to fruition, for a scheme which could open an exciting new era for the ground while saving the local authority a large sum of money.
If agreement can be reached, it would mean the potential for more first-class cricket in the town and greater use of the pitch by the community.
Gould explained: “We are looking to work in partnership with Guildford Cricket Club to bring the facilities at the ground up to the standard of a grade ‘C’ county ground.
“There are some hurdles to get over before we can do that but I’m hoping our talks with the council will mean we can start on that path as soon as possible.”
The large amount of international cricket staged at The Oval and a desire to hikd high profile events there have seen Surrey seeking a base for their squad to train, while the cut in links with Whitgift School – who used to stage their own festival – opens up the possibility of Woodbridge Road hosting more four-day cricket should the opportunity arise
Guildford is a popular venue for spectators and many of the county club’s members live within easy reach of the town, explaining why it often attracts the largest crowds of the season for both LV County Championship and limited overs matches.
But the costs of setting up the ground – notably importing temporary seating – for five days of cricket are around £25,000 and have made it much harder to wring a profit from the festival.
Planning permission for some permanent seating at the ground – which would then be augmented for county games – has already been sought.
One of the biggest “hurdles” to overcome will be the lease, which has just over a decade to run with any development work requiring an upgrading of the pavilion – which was built in time for the opening first-class match in 1938 – which will demand a great deal of investment.
The borough council will gain through unloading running costs. Gould added: “The pavilion is reaching the stage where it is almost beyond being fit for use.
“If we are to use the ground as a training base, possibly stage more first-class games, give Guildford CC a base which is more suitable and make it appropriate for community use, then we need to have much better dressing rooms, a press box and few other things.
“You could spend £3m on a completely new structure if you wanted but we’re more in favour of refurbishment and extension, for which we are still talking about between £500,000 and £1m.”
Architects’ drawings have been made, and Gould went on: “I think there is a lot of common ground between us, but we would like to be in a position where we can start work at the end of this season.
“Developing new practice areas would be a major asset not only for Surrey but our academy – which is based just up the road at George Abbot School in Burpham – Guildford’s own players and the University of Surrey.
“We would be able to take a significant cost burden off Guildford Borough Council and we would be seeking more use of the ground during the winter by other sports in a way which is sympathetic with its main purpose.
“That could only benefit the sporting community of Guildford.”
It would be a huge advance for cricket in the town, where the oldest known written reference to the game was made in 1598.
The Woodbridge Road ground was donated to the municipality by Sir Harry Waechter in 1911 for sporting use in perpetuity, which has ensured that – unlike so many arenas – it has not been concreted over and turned into houses, flats or a shopping centre.
Its charitable status is believed to be one of the reasons why negotiations with the council have been prolonged.
Former chief executive David Watts, now president of Guildford CC, believes a new agreement would be “a huge benefit to everyone involved”.
And Gould concluded: “It’s a gem in a wonderful position at the heart of the town and community, we want to give it a bit of a polish.”