First-class cricket could return to Maidstone by the summer of 2010 if the plans of the The Mote Cricket Club and officials at Kent come to fruition.
Kent have not hosted a first-class fixture in Maidstone since June 2005, a wet month in a damp summer when the county were docked eight championship points by the England and Wales Cricket Board after beating Gloucestershire within two days on a pitch that was deemed unsatisfactory by the board’s pitch panel.
Three years on and the end of Kent’s self-imposed ground embargo is seemingly nearing an end after the completion of work to improve wickets on the square and now news of ambitious new plans to re-develop the ground’s tired and faded facilities.
A venue for Kent matches since 1857, The Mote spent £14,000 re-laying four new pitches on their square last year which will be tested for the first time later this summer when Kent Under-17s take on Somerset.
Though a scheme involving local developers Hillreed Homes never came to fruition, the chairman of The Mote’s ground committee Brian Piper is hopeful a new plan will help reinvigorate the county town club, put its financial status on a firmer footing and attract first-class cricket again.
Mr Piper explained: “We have a new plan with a preferred local developer, Simon Wright Homes, who we meet on Monday with our legal advisors.
“The plan involves some enabling development of new homes at the side of our third team ground which will release funds to build a new pavilion on the top bank between the rugby pitch and the first team cricket ground.
“The old pavilion and The Tabernacle will remain and will be re-furbished. Although they will be upgraded we have yet to decide what we might use them for.”
Mr Piper added: “If everything is agreed at Monday’s meeting we hope to submit plans to the borough council within the next two months.
“Down the line, the idea is for the rugby and cricket sections of the club to amalgamate, to make us a stronger unit and, at this stage, all the intentions are good.
“There are things to iron out, but it’s a win-win situation for everybody because we all get the benefit of better facilities.
“We’re looking at this on a two-year basis and the idea is that Kent might be playing back at The Mote by 2010."
Full story in Friday's Kent Messenger newspaper