Newlands: Heritage site or derelict white elephant?
Former Springbok captain Wynand Claassen’s principled and virtuous crusade to turn the Newlands Stadium into a Heritage Site may well have the opposite effect – the unintended consequence of turning it into a proverbial white elephant.
TO RECAP: Claassen, captain of the Springbok team on the polemical 1981 tour of New Zealand, filed papers in June to have Newlands declared a ‘heritage site’.
It was the result of Claassen’s heritage crusade – which started in June, when his ‘consortium’, Save Newlands Rugby Stadium, applied to the Western Cape government to declare Newlands a ‘heritage site’ in order to ensure the historical stadium doesn’t get demolished.
Claassen and his Save Newlands Rugby Stadium clan had an online meeting with the Heritage Western Cape committee on August 5.
Representatives from SARU, who is opposing the heritage bid, have also met with the committee – who was to have performed an ‘on-site’ inspection.
The process is now in a ‘review’ phase – which could take weeks, if not months.
(Article continues below this @rugby365com documentary on the Newlands Stadium…)
In the meantime, the physical decay of the stadium and social regression of the precinct are amongst the deleterious and noxious by-products of the delay.
And the cost of preserving or upgrading the stadium is skyrocketing with each passing week.
The Western Province Rugby Football Union, the actual owners, do not have the money to service the stadium. In fact a recent report from the SARU administrator revealed that it cost ZAR180,000 per month just to maintain the playing surface – which is why the cash-strapped union stopped the upkeep.
Claassen on Thursday told @rugby365com they are willing ‘carry the costs’ of the maintenance if they succeed, as they have “big plans” for the stadium.
However, he is blaming WPRFU for the current decay of the stadium.
Claassen suggested that the neglect of the stadium may have been a “deliberate” attempt to ensure it becomes and “eyesore” and is demolished.
“It is the responsibility of the owner [WPRFU] to maintain the stadium, something they paid no attention to,” the Pretoria-based architect said.
“With a little initiative they could have easily handled and protected the maintenance,” Claassen said, adding: “The maintenance remains the owner’s responsibility!”
He said they are still a “long way off” from getting approval for it to be declared a heritage site, although they have started the “permanent heritage application”.
“We are working on ‘ideas’ on how Newlands can be transformed into a sensible and workable tourist attraction, which includes the maintenance of the stadium.
“However, we are still a long way from that stage. The nomination is a ‘mere request’,” Claassen said, adding that their goal at this stage is just to ensure Newlands is not ‘demolished’.
He said that if their application is approved, WPRFU will have to account for the decay and decline of the stadium.
“The WPRFU deserted the place and allowed it to fall into disrepair,” Claassen told @rugby365com.
“They want it to appear like a deserted eyesore so it can be demolished,” he said, adding: “I don’t understand how they did not use all that floor space and suites for the upkeep of the stadium'”
However, as noble as Claassen’s crusade is, the obvious social decline of the immediate precinct is not going to help with the rising costs.
The invasion of vagrants and the accompying escalating crime wave has local residents up in arms.
One of the prime examples of this decline was the need to demolish the famous Springbok pub that bordered the stadium – after vagrants first stripped the property, then some moved in, after which a fire gutted the converted train carriage.
As for the residents in the immediate vicinity, house burglaries, muggings, cable theft, vehicles burglaries, vehicle theft and attempted hijackings are all adding to the statistics of a recent crime wave.
In the meantime, the Fly/Dreamworld group – who holds bonds on all the WPRFU properties – are sitting back and watching interest grow on the loan of ZAR112-million they gave to WPRFU to pay off previous loans from Remgro and Investec.
* See pictures below for the demise of the stadium in precinct decay!
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* Picture credit for Springbok Pub: Wesley Ford