Harlequins Rugby Club celebrated a milestone last night with the opening of their new clubrooms at the former Methodist Hall on Church St.

The club bought the building in June last year. It's taken six months to prepare it for opening.

Extensive work has been done in the main hall which now houses a bar, kitchen and conference rooms.

About $500,000 has been spent on the combined purchase and renovation of the building.

The new venue measures 521 square metres and is a Historical Places Trust building of interest.

It is 102 years to the day since the building was formally opened as a Methodist Sunday School. No structural renovations have been made to the old church.

Club president Gareth Burgess said the aim of the project was to have a base for the next 150 years.

He said the club was pleased to finally own a venue after sharing facilities for more than 10 years.

"It's hard to run things when you haven't a base."

Mr Burgess said there had been plenty of assistance from club members with the renovations.

"That in turn has saved the club money. They have taken ownership of the building through their work."

Harlequins sold its Morrison Park grounds last year for an undisclosed sum, but has a leaseback arrangement for four years.

The club had planned to build clubrooms at Morrison Park before the sale of the grounds.

Harlequins is an amalgamation of the former Zingari and Star clubs. Since forming just over a decade ago, their senior rugby side have won five championship titles in 10 years.

Lifetime member Neil Wakefield was at yesterday's opening ceremony.

He played rugby for Star between 1945 and 1952 before serving as a member of the committee and eventually taking over as the club's president. The Star Rugby Football Club committee minutes of October 1962 show that Mr Wakefield and George Adknins were given authority to buy the 12-plus acre block at Seadown Rd up to the value of 3500.

The land was named Morrison Park after Tom Morrison (All Black and Rugby Union chairman) who played rugby for Star during the 1940s.

[Al Williams - Timaru Herald 14.3.2009]