The last decade has seen further ground improvements that have transformed Lorn Park into what has become generally recognised as the premier cricket ground in Maitland.
This situation was made possible by the transfer of the Rugby Union to Marcellin Park; by the active work of the Club’s committee and the Lorn Park Recreation Board; and above all by the tireless efforts to improve the condition of the pitch, ground and facilities by the curator, Alan Mudd.
A number of improvements were carried out to bring the ground up to first class condition. The pitch area was re-turfed and extended; a new sightscreen was constructed at the Bowling Club end; the old sightscreen was repaired and repainted; the practice area was redesigned and renewed; the underground watering system was extended; and the purchase of a ride-on mower enabled the playing surface on the outfield to be greatly improved. Recently landscaping and paving have enhanced the area around the clubhouse and there is even now a flagpole for the Club to fly its own standard.
A major project undertaken to improve the appearance and condition of Lorn Park was the restoration of a picket fence around the ground, as had been the case back in 1923.This became known as the Lorn Park Heritage Restoration Project and at the forefront of the fund raising activities were Hunter Calder, David Johnston and Bruce Leary. Mainly through their efforts sufficient finance was raised to carry out the project – Council contributed $20,000; a grant of $9,000 was obtained from the Department of Sport and Recreation; and $17,000 was raised through the donations of various local businesses and Life Members.
An official opening day for the new facilities was held on 12th February, 2000 with the honours being performed by the local State Member, John Price and the Mayor of Maitland, Peter Blackmore.
Various sections around the metal picket fence were named in honour of three individuals who had made a major contribution to the improved facilities and to the Club – the Hunter Calder Gate outside the pavilion entrance; the John Wilkinson Gate leading to the Lorn Park Bowling Club; and the Alan Mudd “Snoopy” Practice Complex near the new practice area.
On 18th November, 2000 the second stage of the Lorn Park Heritage Restoration Project was marked with the official naming of the refurbished training nets the Norman Mudd Training Complex and the area surrounding the nets as the Keith Smith Reserve – fitting tributes in honour of two of Norths “greats”!
With the marked improvement of the pitch and ground conditions during this period, Lorn Park became the venue for a number of important fixtures – a three day “Test match” between the Emu Colts and the Canterbury Kiwi Emerging Players in January 1999; a match between a Central North team and a touring South African Country team in October 1999; and a Combined Country Trial match between Northern and Southern NSW Colts in January 2001.
So favourable were the ground reports from the Combined Trial Country match, Lorn Park became the venue in September 2001 for the NSW Pura Cup team’s pre-season training camp under the direction of State Coach, Steve Rixon.
Following on from this, Lorn Park was used for the staging on 16th September 2001 of the Ivor Ewin Place of Origin match between the Country Origin team, captained by Shane Lee, and the City Origin team, captained by Stuart MacGill. This was only the second time that this match had been played outside of Sydney – the other time being in 1994 in Maitland at Robins Oval for the Association’ Centenary.
During the 2001-02 season the ground was also used to host two matches in the Australian Under 19 Championships and a semi-final of the NRMA Cup competition.
In 2002-03 Lorn Park was again the venue for NRMA Cup matches and for a one day “International Match” between the touring New Zealand Canterbury Emerging Players and the Northern NSW Emus team.
All in all, the ground improvements and the representative matches that have been played at Lorn Park have given the oval the reputation of being one of the top country grounds in NSW – a reputation befitting the ground of a Club with a proud tradition extending over a hundred years.