Cass Square is expected to be out of bounds for most of the rugby season after taking a hammering from two big events in succession, in the wet.
Large patches of newly-sown grass were killed off from the trampling of 5800 pairs of feet during the wet Wildfoods Festival, and hundreds were back on the square on Sunday for Children's Day. The new turf was also tested by the South Island Marist Rugby Tournament on March 4.
The Westland District Council had planned to carry out remedial works costing $10,000 after Children's Day, however, more rain caused more damage as the turf turned to mud in places. Gumboots or no footwear at all were the order of the day due to the muddy conditions.
Council field inspections officer John Bainbridge said the volume of people and vehicles driving over it had flattened the grass further, affecting the drainage.
"The top surface is now totally sealed off because it's been compressed by the thousands of people walking over the grass and vehicles driving all over it while wet. It's going to require some extensive rehabilitation and it probably won't be usable for most of the rugby season," Mr Bainbridge said.
Kiwi Rugby Football Club president Glen Kearns said they were yet to hear from the council but if that was the case it would be "extremely frustrating" for the club.
"It puts us in a difficult position because we rely on it. We're not like other clubs who have their own grounds. It basically prevents us from playing at home," Mr Kearns said.
Last year the club also faced losing the square for the season but the council held off with the $120,000 turf and drainage improvements, just recently completed, until October due to pressure from the rugby community.
Mr Kearns said it was potentially an ongoing issue with Wildfoods as well as Agfest both booked for Cass Square next year before the rugby season.
Mr Bainbridge said he had fielded calls from upset members of the public yesterday about the state of the grounds, but it was up to councillors to make a call on the future use of the square.
"There's people out there who are understandably upset, and I understand why."
The surface was a silt drainage system designed specifically for a sportsfield: "It was never designed for the activities we've subjected it to over the years."
However, he also recognised that Cass Square was a community asset.
Children's Day co-ordinator Anna Dyzel, from the Lions Club, said they would welcome suggestions for an alternative venue for the popular day. She acknowledged that damage had been done and Mr Bainbridge said they had received an apology on behalf of the organisers.
One positive was the underlying drainage system was still intact, he said.
"The most disappointing thing is the time loss, and it's a bad time of year to make grass grow ... going into winter."
- Hokitika Guardian