Garon Park Centre of Cricketing Excellence

 Swings into action


There has been significant progress in establishing a Centre of Cricketing Excellence at Garon Park, Southend since the project was launched two years ago. The aim is to encourage cricket development and coaching from grass roots to county level for schoolboys, schoolgirls and club cricketers and for Garon Park to be the South East Essex home ground for representative, inter and intra district games. The first such games were played in 2006 and around 30 are scheduled for 2007 including two Essex second X1 fixtures.

 The Vision

 To provide a top quality cricket facility for all regional developmental and excellence cricket in the South East Essex area as well as a venue for first class cricket.

 Why Southend?

 Over 600,000 people live in South East Essex in Southend, Rochford, Castle Point, Basildon and Thurrock; that is nearly 40% of the population in the whole county. Southend is the most densely populated region in the county. And most important the existing Garon Park infrastructure means we do not have the delays and financial hurdles of setting up a completely new green field site.

 What is Garon Park?

 The Garon Park site is a joint venture between the Norman Garon Trust and Southend Borough Council. It is approximately 35 hectares in size and accommodates a golf complex, a comprehensive leisure centre built in the 1990s, an athletics stadium, a golf centre as well as a county size cricket arena with ample on site parking and room for development. Until 2005 the cricketing facilities had been largely neglected but the outfield has one of the best drainage systems in the county and the facility has ample parking to accommodate large crowds. The overall site has the potential to become a local centre of excellence for a whole range of sports including cricket, football, golf and tennis. The Norman Garon Trust and Southend Borough Council are committed to support the new cricketing centre and have generously made available the cricket arena and surrounding area to the Essex Cricket Board for the development of local cricket.

 Who will run the Centre?

 All recreational and developmental cricket activity in Essex is channelled via the Essex County Cricket Board (ECCB) which operates through five regional district boards. Garon Park will become the cricketing centre for the South Essex District Cricket Board which is the regional board for Southend, Rochford, Castle Point, Basildon and Thurrock.

 What about finance?

 The public appeal launched by the Essex & Southend Sports Trust (EASST) in 2005 has so far raised  around £130,000 towards its goal of developing a Cricketing Centre of Excellence for the whole of south Essex at Garon Park. The sports charity has matched pound for pound all donations received from the public and has made grants of £30,000 in both 2006 and 2007 out of the appeal’s funds towards the costs of the centre. This has enabled Essex to recruit a full time groundsman – Phil Burton – to work on the facility and has also contributed to adding six more performance cricket wickets to the square. This was carried out last September and means the square at Garon Park is now similar in size to the square at Chelmsford.

 What will change in the next year or so?

 The Essex County Cricket Board has agreed a ten year lease with the Norman Garon Trust, which owns the facility. EASST and the Norman Garon Trust have made capital commitments to provide permanent perimeter and boundary fencing and outdoor cricket nets. We hope the nets will be ready for the 2008 season and be available to clubs and schools in the South Essex area as well as by the professionals during the annual Essex Ford Southend Cricket Festival. Our next project is to raise finance for a new scoreboard.

 What about the longer term?

 Feasibility studies are underway on a number of larger capital projects including an indoor cricket school, extra toilet facilities and permanent seating. Funding would be required from bodies such as Thames Gateway and other government funded organisations.

 How can you help?

 The public appeal’s target is to raise £200,000 towards immediate operational requirements so further patrons and donations are required. Anyone interested in helping the cause should phone trustees Joe Sims (01245 471674) or Peter Butler (01245 360385). Alternatively just send a cheque made out to Essex & Southend Sports Trust to the Ford County Ground at Chelmsford. Please make sure you enclose a note with your cheque to confirm that you wish the donation to be made under the Gift Aid Rules. This will allow the Trust to recover £22 from the Inland Revenue for every £78 donated.

A special thanks to the 27 patrons who have each contributed £1,500 over a five year period towards the appeal. This works out to just £25 a month for those who have signed a monthly standing order for five years. Others are contributing £300 a year whilst some have paid the full £1,500 up front. Many others have made one off donations from £25 to £1,000.