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LASTING LEGACY?: Every cent worth it!


HAYDN GILL

LASTING LEGACY?: Every cent worth it!

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As the countdown continues to the start of the 2015 Cricket World Cup, which starts next week Saturday in Australia and New Zealand, the WEEKEND NATION continues the weekly series Lasting Legacy? Eight Years After World Cup 2007.

NATION Associate Editor Haydn Gill is examining the impact the 2007 World Cup in the Caribbean has had on the region.

The series features insights from key stakeholders involved in the 2007 World Cup.

SOUTH AFRICA spent US$40 million in stadium development for the 2003 Cricket World Cup. In contrast, the Caribbean forked out US$400 million for the 2007 event.

Put into context, however, the reality is that while South Africa had already boasted modern grounds that required only minor upgrades, the West Indies virtually started from scratch to create state-of-the-art venues capable of putting on the sport’s biggest event.

Even so, there were widespread concerns that the price tag here was exorbitant, bearing in mind that the World Cup was just for six weeks. Many argued the money could have been allocated for other areas critical to social and economic development.

Asked to respond to those who felt too much was spent on stadium development, Don Lockerbie, an American who was appointed chief operating officer and venue development director of ICC Cricket World Cup 2007 – a wholly owned subsidiary of the West Indies Cricket Board – laughed off the suggestion.

In his estimation, every cent was worth the investment in which nine countries around the region either built new stadiums or underwent major facelifts to fashion facilities that were described as the finest array of grounds ever assembled for cricket’s World Cup.

“I’m very proud of them,” Lockerbie told the WEEKEND NATION. “In reality, I thought we were very conservative out of the fear of developing white elephants. I don’t believe that we have any venue that is a white elephant. It might be argued that they stand empty far too long per year but we didn’t build a 70 000 seat stadium anywhere.”

“There are things I would have done differently. I had quite a few arguments with political leaders about what to do and where to do it but I’ve never been more proud of the team I worked with and my own experience and success in the 2007 World Cup. At the same time, it’s the hardest thing I ever did and probably will ever do. It was the most difficult challenge,” added Lockerbie, a 35-year industry professional who came into the job with the experience of having worked with Olympic Games and football’s World Cup.”

Throughout the Caribbean, five completely new stadiums were built, another four had major renovations and one had minor upgrades (see accompanying box).

Kensington Oval in Barbados incurred expenditure of BDS$135 million to undergo a significant transformation and a further BDS$15 million was added by the time lights were installed after the World Cup, a phase Lockerbie felt should have been completed in time for 2007.

“I was very vocal about every country had to have lights. The ICC said no, you don’t have to. It’s an option. I demanded it. I stand by it today,” he said.     

Eight years after the World Cup, the stark reality is that several of these stadiums are vastly underutilised in spite of efforts to cater to events other than cricket. The net effect is that considerable financial strain has been put on some of the entities charged with the responsibility for managing the venues.

Regional authorities have made big mistakes, Lockerbie asserts, pointing to the failure to develop and execute a viable commercial plan and a reluctance to sell naming rights, an initiative that was pursued by Kensington Oval Management Inc. more than four years ago but later abandoned after opposition to a name change on the grounds of the rich history attached to Kensington.

In brushing aside that argument, Lockerbie pointed out there was only a short-lived outcry in London when Premier League football club Arsenal closed Highbury, which had been their home ground for close to 100 years to open the new Emirates Stadium.

While adding it was common practice around the globe, he made mention of a few examples where corporate entities have paid for the right to be associated with a sports venue. When the Giants stadium that accommodates the New York Giants and New York Jets was rebuilt, it was renamed Met Life Stadium after the insurance company agreed to pay US$20 million annually for 40 years.

“You stop worrying about the name when that kind of money is coming through the door. It’s just old school belligerence. They’re going to say it is a white elephant but they don’t want to have the obvious fit,” Lockerbie said.

“You can’t blame the Cricket World Cup of eight years ago. We kicked off the future and eight years later the question should be what are governments doing to turn those venues into factories of economic development? Those venues are beautiful, well designed, ready-for-business factories of the sports and entertainment industry.”

Immediately after the 2007 World Cup, Lockerbie had an audience with some Caribbean prime ministers where the discussions centred on what needed to be done to ensure that the venues would not turn into white elephants. It was critical, he added, that each country adopted a sports tourism strategy, a professional sports strategy and a professional industry strategy.

Pointing out that studies have predicted that the 2015 sports industry worldwide would have a global economic impact of US$144 billion, Lockerbie said it appeared that the region was not trying to capitalise on the four per cent annual growth of the industry.

“It is one of the great industries. What are we doing about that in the Caribbean? I made that well known and I offered my services. Two countries took advantage – Barbados and St Kitts. With the help of Hilary Beckles, we were hired and we developed a master plan on what to do with sports venues and a strategy. We put together the first part of the master plan but there was government change and we haven’t implemented anything.

“In St Kitts, we developed a plan and we’ve been developing it. It is an absolute success story. Maybe they’ve become the model that the bigger countries have lost sight of.”

Since the end of the 2007 World Cup, some stadiums have hosted events outside of cricket, including a variety of other sports and cultural events.

These are often few and far between and most venues remain inactive for the majority of any one year.

“Do you want to fill up your stadia? Stop waiting for things to come to you. The rest of the world has sports commissions. That was another point I made to the prime ministers – that perhaps CARICOM should have a sports commission. This is not the ministry of sports,” Lockerbie said.

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2007 WORLD CUP STADIUM DEVELOPMENT

• Antigua built a new facility, the Vivian Richards Cricket Ground, four miles outside the capital, St John’s.

• Guyana constructed a new venue, the Providence Stadium, on the outskirts of Georgetown.

• St Kitts built a new facility, Warner Park, in the same location as the old venue.

• Grenada National Stadium, which opened in 1999, was rebuilt after it was destroyed by Hurricane Ivan in 2004.

• Kensington Oval in Barbados underwent a comprehensive facelift, with the stands beings knocked down and rebuilt.

• Sabina Park in Jamaica had major renovations that included the building of a new five-storey North Stand.

• Queen’s Park Oval in Trinidad underwent major renovations that included the construction of a new Trini Posse Stand.

• St Lucia’s Beausejour Stadium, which opened in 2002, had minor upgrades.

• Arnos Vale Sports Complex in St Vincent had major renovations.

• Jamaica constructed a new facility in the north, the Trelawny Staduim, which hosted warm-up matches.

 

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