By CRAIG McTEAR
AT first, Ken Robinson thought it was firebugs who had knocked him for six at Brelsford Park.
But when Coffs Harbour's cricket supremo made a closer inspection, a far less sinister culprit began to emerge.
Alarmed passersby were quick to alert authorities to smoke coming from the Brelsford Park grandstand at 10.20pm on Thursday.
When fire crews arrived, they discovered a blaze in a downstairs storeroom housing gear belonging to the local cricket fraternity.
Ken, the Coffs Harbour District Cricket Association president, said it appeared a short-circuit in a fluorescent light set grass clippings on fire.
The extreme heat melted a complete set of three wicket covers in an adjoining bay.
The cricket association is now faced with the daunting task of scraping together $3000 to buy new ones in time for the 2006/2007 cricket season, a mere three months away.
"It's an expense we can't afford. The only way we can meet costs is to increase fees," Ken said.
"But if we increase fees, we lose players."
"We had a set of covers stolen from Fitzroy Oval 18 months ago. They cost $1600 to replace."
Ken is relieved the flames did not claim a $10,000 roller parked in the adjacent machinery room.
However, a hose, shovels and other gear used by the Brelsford Park curator didn't fare so well.
The blackened storage facilities and adjoining changeroom, all Coffs Harbour City Council property, will certainly need a good lick of paint to consign the smoke and heat damage to history.
The entire grandstand is earmarked for demolition under the council's plans to turn Brelsford into a village green 'community space'.