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A THORNY ISSUE: Wanted: Word on Stadium

ANDI THORNHILL, [email protected]

A THORNY ISSUE: Wanted: Word on Stadium

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SOME definitive word is needed from policymakers about the situation with the National Stadium.

The cloak of indecision needs to be clarified as we head into the athletics season, particularly school sports, which will be staged this term.

Disclosure becomes even more relevant in respect of the Barbados Secondary Schools Athletics Championships (BBSAC) which many are hoping will not have to be cancelled for lack of an adequate facility to stage it.

It can happen because the stands at the Stadium are closed to the public because of security concerns. The general inference is that the inability to accommodate large numbers of spectators will grossly affect the revenue of the organisers as we are mindful that putting on five days of activities won’t be cheap.

I believe it’s mainly in this regard that there are reservations among the organisers of BBSAC to have the championships there, but what is the alternative?

The Usain Bolt Complex is the only other one that comes to mind, but there again there seems to be a problem with that facility because, even with additional bleachers, it doesn’t seem that there will be enough space for paying spectators to help offset the costs.

Obviously, the organisers have to consider the bottom line because, as a non-profit organisation that raises its own subsidies, they would rather avoid being in the red at the end of the day.

Actually, too, it has been said that it is costlier to rent the Bolt Complex than the National Stadium, so that’s another part of the equation that clouds the financial outlook. In an instance like this, it might be pertinent for the authorities at the Bolt Complex to reduce the rental fee to help the organisers stage the event without too much monetary stress.

For, let’s face it, we have to take a realistic and pragmatic approach to the situation. Six looks like half dozen with the two facilities capable of staging big events like BBSAC, having challenges with their seating capacity, yet I don’t think we should sacrifice inter-school sports again on these grounds.

It will be bad for the sport in general, especially in an Olympic year, but moreso for the athletes who look forward to enjoying bragging rights at arguably the biggest showpiece on the local athletics calendar.

In fact, it would seem that the organisers of the National Association of Primary Schools Athletic Championships (NAPSAC) have decided in principle to move their spectacle away from Waterford to Paradise Park, conceding that this is the practical thing to do to avoid a cancellation like in 2013 when the new track at the Stadium was being laid.

The fallout from such a national event is that it can take time to regain interest among people. Fortunately, this didn’t happen last time, but we shouldn’t take anything for granted.

This brings us back to what are the true intentions of the policymakers who run the Stadium. They, too, need to be pragmatic about the situation because even if we are to believe the learned voices on the state of the economy that we have emerged from the global recession, it still doesn’t mean that Government will budget money immediately to either knock down the Stadium or build a new one at a different location.

Meantime, there will still be a huge demand for the usage of the Stadium in its present form, so can we afford to allow it to become a white elephant? I don’t think so. Therefore, the interim solution lies in doing structural, remedial work on the stands and allow it to function normally until the funds become available to do something more permanent.

It is getting close to a year since the stands have been closed and there are no signs that anything is about to change anytime soon.

I think those in charge know this too, but so far we have heard on occasions that they are having consultations with engineers and the like without giving specifics. We don’t know if they are going backward or forward. It’s been pretty much like talking loud and saying nothing.

We must also remember that the Gymnasium will be closed for general repairs and upgrade for 18 months from April this year and naturally sporting organisations will have to seek alternatives to stage their competitions.

I remember when the Gymnasium project was launched, it was stated that there would be discussions with the associations that would be affected. Turning empty warehouses into interim indoor stadia was mooted as a means of still assisting organisations in basketball, volleyball and badminton to have their competitions while the Gymnasium remains out of bounds. Is this still part of the strategy?

As with the Stadium, these are questions that only people who have the position and power to make things happen can answer. It will be better for all, the sooner they are more forthcoming with the information all stakeholders need to assist with their own planning.

Andi Thornhill is an experienced sports journalist and media consultant. Email [email protected]