EDITORIAL: Fresh approach to stadium construction
IT IS GENERALLY ACCEPTED that this country’s National Stadium at Waterford,St Michael, has long passed its usefulness and that there is need for a new complex. The reality is that Government simply cannot afford to undertake this type of capital works project at this time.
Indeed, it is unlikely any Government will be in a position to finance such a project costing in excess of $150 million in the near future using conventional financing methods. The island’s fiscal position is simply too precarious.
The country, however, must have a new national stadium. We can either beg the Chinese to do us the favour as many of our neighbours have done, or Government can enter into a joint venture with private sector developers. A public-private partnership project seems the best option, with Government providing the land and the private sector building, financing and operating the facility.
So before Minister of Sport Stephen Lashley rushes off to replace the existing stadium, he needs to consider the best options whilst working within a specific time frame. This should come after urgent consultations with the various sporting associations, the National Cultural Foundation and entertainment promoters to determine what is best suited.
He should then hold talks with private sector investors who may be interested in bidding for such a project. Given the nature of such a project and the likely opposition, foresight would also suggest the involvement of the wider public in any discussions.
Barbados needs to have a modern, multipurpose, all-weather complex encompassing the entire stretch of land used by all the sporting and entertainment groups at Waterford, with the objective of giving them much-enhanced facilities at the end of the project. The new stadium should offer even more.
This country lacks good indoor concert facilities and within any new proposed stadium should be the ability to seat an audience of a few thousand attending such events. We can no longer continue to improvise with what is available, particularly at the Gymnasium of the Garfield Sobers Sports Complex, the Lloyd Erskine Sandiford Centre and Kensington Oval, none of which was purpose-built for entertainment events. This is an opportunity to correct a glaring deficiency.
Additionally, by placing any new sporting complex under the control of the private sector, it should also eliminate the belief that the facilities are there to be used free of cost while at the same time taking the politics out of its direction and management.
In approaching the development of a new stadium, it may also be the golden opportunity to get many of the sporting associations and the entertainment producers to enhance what they do. Too many of them are still not only primarily volunteer organisations, but their management is simply too amateurish.
If we are to make a business out of sport and entertainment, including generating new economic opportunities, then there must be a significant shift in the way things are done.