Wagga's Masters Games cancelled: Heavy losses expected

Update: 2.10pm 

Masters Games contestants have been assured they will receive a full registration refund within 21-28 days, but participants say not all losses will be recovered.

Basketball competitor Marnie Hodsdon said she and fellow Canberra-based teammates had their doubts.

“It’s disappointing. We’ve all lost money,” Ms Hodsdon said. 

“It’s so last minute … and what’s been spent on accommodation, we can’t get that back.”

She said her sister had spent more than $1000 on rooms for one team that was non-refundable now. 

But Ms Hodsdon said it wasn’t all about the money. 

She said the teams had been looking forward to and training for the weekend, as it was the only event of its kind in NSW.

“Everyone is really disappointed and annoyed at losing the cost and the opportunity to compete,” Ms Hodsdon said. 

“It’s such a shame for the Wagga region.”

Update: 1.45pm

Wagga’s International Hotel owner said local businesses were caught in the middle of the Masters Game carnage. 

Joel Berrigan is anticipating a loss of more than $20,000, following the event’s cancellation.

He said the hotel had gone from 60 per cent capacity on the planned weekend, to a disheartening 19 per cent. 

“It’s not much warning … it’s frustrating,” Mr Berrigan said. 

“The thing is, we’re the first point of contact for visitors and it ripples from there.”

Mr Berrigan said the loss of more than 1400 competitors, not including their friends and families, would cost the city a much-needed cash injection and economic boost. 

“You’ve got pubs, restaurants and cafes too,” he said.

“It’s the unforeseen dollars that get disregarded.”

Mr Berrigan said it felt as though businesses were put in the crossfire of a stand off between council and Masters Game organisers. 

In a public statement, the organisers said only one venue needed to be booked from council, with others booked through their respective sports.

Despite this, council allegedly contacted the planned entertainment personally, Mike Whitney, to share concerns that “absolutely no grounds (were) booked”.

While council have said they tried, in vain, to contact the event organiser in the lead-up to the cancellation, the organiser said council “kept changing goal posts”, making it “increasingly harder to reach the point they were happy”.

Amid a “confusing” blame game, Mr Berrigan said Wagga’s businesses were left holding the ball. 

Illuminate Wagga co-organiser Tim McMullen said Tuesday’s announcement was beyond disappointing. 

“It impacts so many different areas,” Mr McMullen said. 

“If we had run it, it would have showed what the city could do and what we’re capable of.”

The Borambola Wines director said with the average visitor spending $164 per night on accommodation and food alone, the overall impact on the city would be enormous.  

Update: 1pm

Former Australian Test cricketer and television personality Mike Whitney has retracted support for the Wagga Masters Games.

Event coordinator Brendon Meynell in February said Whitney had been secured as a special guest.

Whitney was to officially open the Games with a sportsman’s dinner on October 6; however, the star’s public relations representative on Tuesday said Whitney had “nothing to do with this tournament/event”.

The K Faktor manager Justin Karcher said:

“We have been trying to obtain a reply from the organiser … with respect to having Mike’s name and image removed from the site”.

The Daily Advertiser has been unable to reach Mr Meynell for comment. 

Update: Noon 

In a statement, Wagga City Council defended a move to release the venue bookings for the Masters Games.

Council said it had made every effort to contact the organiser in the weeks leading to its decision. 

The organiser was allegedly notified the bookings would be released on Tuesday, August 29.

The statement read:

“Along with not contacting Council or attending a number of scheduled meetings, the organiser had provided no evidence of registrations or commitments from local sporting groups and had not provided public liability documentation despite multiple requests”.

Council said the organiser did not attend a final meeting, scheduled for 28 August, which left staff with no option but to release the venue bookings for Bolton Park Stadium, Bolton Park, French Fields, Conolly Park and the Oasis Regional Aquatic Centre.

Earlier:

Masters Games’ contestants have been left hamstrung and out of pocket, after the city’s inaugural event was canned, mere weeks before its launch. 

More than 1400 registered athletes were dealt the heavy blow on Tuesday, triggering disappointment and fury on social media. 

The highly-anticipated tournament for over-30s, was set to kick off on Friday, October 6 and had generated interest from across the state. 

Organisers took to Facebook to announce the news, naming Wagga City Council as a lead contributor to the termination.

The post read: 

“Promises that were made to us by the council were not followed through”.

In addition, sponsors, that had signed up and paid deposits, had not completed payments and sporting groups had also backed out, according to the post. 

Wagga Showground was secured to host of the “athletes village” and a fireworks display was also on the cards.

More to come