Hopes are high work to returf Napier's beleaguered McLean Park will begin next month, with the venue reopened in time for the spring rugby season - as long as the weather plays ball.
The proposed upgrade of Napier's premier sports venue became urgent after a one-day cricket international between New Zealand and Australia last February was abandoned without a ball being bowled.
Today park owners Napier City Council announced that if good weather continued the first sod would be removed on April 9.
Council chief executive Wayne Jack said prolonged rain in the north of the country last month had staff concerned, as each stage of the park's redevelopment depended on the weather, "from growing the grass to lifting the existing turf to harvesting and laying the hybrid turf, so we've all been keeping a close eye on the MetService website".
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The hybrid turf is being grown in Pukekohe, South Auckland on a specialist backing, and is due to be harvested and transported to Napier in July.
The high-tech hybrid turf will ensure flexibility in McLean Park's use, being resilient enough to be able to host sports games, large-scale music gigs, and all sorts of community events.
Other improvements to the park include improved irrigation and sub-soil drainage, cricket practice nets, a weather station and moisture sensors - this would allow for selective irrigation, meaning areas would not be over watered.
"We'll also install reinforcements underground so our drop-in pitch crane can be brought in without impacting on the turf," Mr Jack said. "And we're embarking on a well-overdue signage and branding project so that our park is easily found and navigated."
The $4.9 million redevelopment is funded from existing sports ground budget, renewals, financial contributions and loans.
The council expects a "host of benefits" once the park reopens, including efficient and targeted irrigation and a ground requiring less turnaround time between bookings.
"A fully reconditioned McLean Park will put us back on track for first-class and international cricket, rugby, the global entertainment business as well as Hawke's Bay community events," Mr Jack said.
Letters to residents of neighbouring Morris and Latham Sts have been distributed to advise of traffic changes and earth removal work to be completed over the next few months.
With the Hurricanes facing the Sharks in a Super Rugby match on April 6, excavation work to a depth of 450mm will begin on April 9, if fine weather holds.
Drainage issues meant three scheduled international cricket matches this summer were moved from McLean Park, and Central Districts scheduled most summer games away from the venue.