A multi-million dollar indoor sports facility has opened at Christchurch's Hagley Oval bearing the name of a red-and-black sporting legend. Kurt Bayer reports.
There aren't many accolades or honours that Sir Richard Hadlee hasn't received. The first cricketer to take 400 Test wickets; widely recognised as one of the game's greatest all-rounders; a fast-bowling metronome who terrorised batsmen as a young tearaway and evolved with age to torment them with staggering skill and guile; a knighthood and place etched on New Zealand's sporting Mt Rushmore.
But the dyed-in-the-wool Cantabrian has never forgotten his roots, growing up enjoying the summer game on criss-crossed Hagley playing fields alongside his four brothers.
With his family already immortalised on the world-class Hagley Oval's Hadlee Pavilion, to have his own name linked to the new Sir Richard Hadlee Sports Centre which officially opens today is something extra special.
"To have it named in my honour, is something very special to me, particularly at this time of my life," says the 70-year-old Hadlee who has battled cancer since 2018.
"[It] is a lovely recognition for the contribution that I've been able to make to Canterbury cricket and New Zealand cricket... it's my legacy to cricket."
The Sir Richard Hadlee Sports Centre is a product of $4.65m of fundraising including donations from the New Zealand cricket community - major donors include the Sir Richard Hadlee Sports Trust, Sir Stephen Tindall, Glenn and Lynne Ritchie and Mark Stewart - and completes the Hagley Oval Cricket Precinct which has fundraised around $20m since 2014.
The facility sits on the site of the former Horticultural Centre which was bought by former test cricketer Stephen Boock and wife Heather and allowed the project to go ahead.
It features 3.6m cricket lanes with 20m run-ups, a 300sq m mezzanine floor with gender-neutral changing rooms and a balcony facing the Hagley Oval.
"It's the final piece of the jigsaw in the Hagley precinct," Hadlee says.
"We have a magnificent cricket ground with the lights and pavilion, and now we have a sports centre of high quality. It makes Hagley Oval the premier cricket ground in New Zealand. No other international cricket ground in New Zealand would have a facility like this, let alone everything else that is on this ground."
Hadlee, who retired from international cricket in 1990, will bowl the centre's first ball to a youth cricketer later today.
He's definitely the more nervous of the two – having had hip and knee replacements, and complaining of a sore back, bad shoulder, and groin strain.
"I haven't bowled a ball for about 20 years," he says.
But he's pleased that the centre will accommodate the next generation of cricketers.
"We'll see thousands and thousands of people using the facility in the time that I have left," Hadlee says.
"Future Black Caps and White Ferns will walk through these doors as they start out on their cricketing journey.
"This is where lifelong connections will be formed and dreams will begin."
Canterbury Cricket Trust (CCT) chairman Lee Robinson says the facility helps secure the region's cricketing future.
"It will give cricketers of all ages and skill levels world-class facilities to train in. But it's more than that.
"The centre is versatile and we can't wait to see other sporting codes and community groups utilise this space."
It will be Christchurch's first indoor cricket training facility since the devastating Canterbury earthquakes of 2010 and 2011.