The Proposed Recreation Ground at North End
- in The Evening News (Portsmouth) (7 may 1886 [UK])
- in Hampshire Telegraph and Sussex Chronicle (8 may 1886 [UK])
The Proposed Recreation Ground at North End
Sir, — In considering the question of the proposed recreation ground at North-end, it appears to me that there are two points which have hardly received the attention which they deserve. The first is the principles on which it should be established, and the second, how far it might be made a self-supporting institution. I am inclined to think that it would be no difficult matter for the ground to pay the interest upon the loan without there being any need to fall back upon the already over-weighted resources of the borough. Perhaps if this could be made clear it would remove the scruples of some of the present opponents of the scheme, who are very properly anxious to avoid incurring additional expense, In the first place, as regards the management of the ground, since the scheme has been ostensibly put forward in the interest of the numerous athletic bodies of the town, they should be allowed a word in the matter. There has been talk of a free park open to all, in which all ages and sexes may play or walk without let or hindrance. If such a scheme were adopted, the ground would at once lose its whole raison d'etre. What hope would there be of good cricket upon a pitch which was cut up and scarred by indiscriminate playings? What would be the value of a bicycle track where the rider could never be certain of a clear course, but must be continually on the watch for children or perambulators? Those who merely wish for fresh air and open space have already the Common, the Victoria Park, and the Portsdown Hills, over which they may ramble. The desertion of the former by cricketers and football players is typical of what would occur in the new ground were it thrown open to the public without restriction or reserve. It is useless to assert that the scheme is undertaken for the benefit of the athletic clubs, and then to couple it with conditions which would deprive it of all value to any athletic body. On the other hand if the ground were regulated in a manner which would make it really useful, there is every prospect that it would be able to pay its way. Let there be a first-class cricket field with every appliance for keeping it in the best of order, a good cinder track for runners and cyclists, lawn-tennis courts round the edges, and a neat little pavilion, to which the gate keeper's lodge might be attached. Then let every club which takes advantage of these arrangements, including the various cricket, football, cycling, running, tennis, and other Societies, pay either so much per year or so much per match for the use of the ground. There is no desire among the different Clubs to make the public pay for their amusements. All they want is to have the chance of such a ground, towards which they are very willing to contribute, and their payments would assist in defraying the annual interest. Again, if the cricket pitch were kept in perfect condition there should be no difficulty in arranging that some of next season's county matches should be played upon it. A three days' match, reckoning the attendance at a thousand a day and the entrance money at one shilling, should bring £150 into the fund. If a few such matches could be arranged, and if all athletic sports, cup ties at football, bicycle and harrier competitions, &c., were to devote a portion of their gate money to the ground, there should be no difficulty in making it self-supporting. It cannot be too strongly impressed upon the Council, however, that any attempt at making the park a public lounge and at the same time a field for athletics, will simply end in danger to the loungers, discontent among the players, and financial responsibility to the borough. The question will arise why such a field should be provided by the town. Simply because it is too large an enterprise for private individuals, and because it will be a permanent addition to the many attractions of the borough. No ratepayer can reasonably complain that he is excluded from it, since by affiliating himself to any local club he can at once have the full use of it. If this opportunity be lost, I fear in a year or two a ground will be taken which may be less convenient and more expensive.
I remain, Sir, faithfully yours,
A. CONAN DOYLE, M.D.