In the previous Column published on Friday 17 April 2015 we addressed to matter of the National Lotteries Authority (NLA) borrowing $6.5m from the National Insurance Services (NIS) ostensibly to upgrade sports facilities around St Vincent and the Grenadines.
We made the point then that in the current season of preparation for the general elections it may well be difficult to determine whether or not the decision to have the NLA involved in such a huge loan from the NIS is a political one aimed at wooing the youth vote for the ruling regime.
In the Column we examine the treasured Arnos Vale Sports Complex if only because it currently cries out for attention in virtually every aspect. Unfortunately, we have not heard it featured in the sporting facilities to be upgraded with the NLA’s most recent loan.
Arnos Vale #1
Arnos Vale #1 has long since been regarded as our premier outdoor sporting facility. Originally built for cricket, it has nonetheless been used from time to time by several other sports including athletics, football and more recently, rugby.
The field last received a significant upgrade in the lead up to the Cricket World Cup of 2007 when it was graded, outfitted with a heavy sand base and new drainage then regressed. The number of turf wickets was significantly increased.
At the time of the goat cook warm up matches we hosted in 2007 the playing arena of Arnos Vale #1 was particularly well prepared and it could easily have ranked with the best in the world. The same cannot be said of the facility today and for a number of reasons.
Clearly the drainage system operates very well. The sand base coupled with the drainage system allows for use of the field for competition of any sort within one hour of even the heaviest downpour. This is quite remarkable and a boon for the facility.
If one were to make a cursory visit to Arnos Vale #1 one would readily observe the number of machinery that are currently non functional. Some them have been waiting for spare parts for several years. Some are merely limping along. The efforts at getting some of them up and running have not always proven successful.
Currently, Arnos Vale #1 is short of the full stock of equipment it needs to adequately keep the playing arena at what is considered international standard.
The Arnos Vale area is noted for ground puppies that wreak havoc with the grassed parts of Arnos Vale #1. As one moves across the arena it is quite obvious that there has not been any spraying of the grass for some time to keep the insects at bay. Instead, large patches can easily be identified where they have had their most recent feast.
It is not that the staff is not prepared to do whatever work is necessary to maintain the field at an acceptable standard. It is the absence of the requisite financial and material resources that places a tremendous burden on them such that they are left appearing almost incompetent.
When one examines the attendant facilities at Arnos Vale #1 one is left to ponder whether the authorities in this country are aware of the significant costs associated with maintenance of a facility that is so close to the sea.
There is no structured maintenance in place for any of the existing pavilions at Arnos Vale #1. The staff dopes not have the wherewithal to engage in the continuous monitoring and cleaning of the rust on the metal. Metal steps up the Frank Thomas Pavilion is already heavily rusted to the point where they need replacing in many areas.
The steel girders are also rusted and have been this way for some time.
It has been several years since last the steel and wrought iron on the different pavilions have received a comprehensive rust cleaning and proofing.
Prior to the recent annual Inter Schools Athletics Championships it was discovered that several of the galvanise sheets on the top of the double decker stands had gotten loose and was flapping. This had to be quickly remedies in order to facilitate the conduct of the event for sheer safety.
The toilets downstairs the double-decker stands have been largely inoperable immediately following the conclusion of the CWC Goat Cook warm up matches and are yet to be repaired due to lack of funds. For the past two years, for example, the organisers of the annual Inter Schools Athletics Championships have had to rent portable toilets for the finals when large crowds are in attendance.
A visit to the other toilets in the several stands would yield an appreciation for the difficulty experienced by those charged with their maintenance on a regular basis.
The armrests for the stands in the PH Veira pavilion are really not intended for our climate as they become very hard and quickly break off.
The Office of the National Sports Council itself has often been subjected to cracks in the building and, much like the rest of the facilities at the venue, requires extensive repairs.
Arnos Vale #2
Arnos Vale #2 does not now look anything like Arnos Vale #1 yet a significant amount of funds were expended grading, laying a sand base then grassing, as happened inside.
One of the problems occurred as the goat cook matches were getting closer. A decision as made to use Arnos Vale #2 for overlay rather than as a facility to be used by the participating teams. This literally led to the undoing of what was originally intended, or so it seems.
Arnos Vale #2 is therefore not well developed. This is not because it is heavily used by the footballers. It is just that for some reason it has never really received the attention it deserves.
The NSC has made several attempts at developing Arnos Vale #2. They have placed benches around the arena to provide some comfort to participants in different sports and spectators but well below the requirements.
There are also very few toilet facilities.
The limited attendant facilities on Arnos Vale #2 suggest a lack of appreciation for its users. Indeed, some may suggest that Arnos Vale #2 is perhaps not intended for anything beyond the parking lot that it is so often transformed into.
Whereas attempts are often made to manicure Arnos Vale #1’s playing arena the same cannot be said of the surface of Arnos Vale #2.
The four hard courts in the Arnos Vale Sports Complex have, over the years, been used for basketball, netball, tennis and volleyball.
Interestingly, several years ago, when the courts were being re-done, mention was made of the importance of caring for it. This extended to dissuading girls and women to avoid using thin heels and everyone from bring chairs without first laying down some material capable of preventing the legs from reaching the surface directly.
Today the surfaces of the hard courts are in a state of serious disrepair.
The two southernmost hard courts have become home to the annual Wet Fete and a host of other entertainment activities. This is not so say that our sporting facilities should not be used for entertainment. Instead the point being made here is the failure to adequately safeguard the surfaces and ensure that they are adequately maintained all year.
There is now no sport that really relishes playing on the hard court except perhaps Guinness Street Football and the annual Rotary Softball Cricket Competition.
The galvanised roofing of the stands around the hard courts is really in a state of disrepair and in some cases hazardous.
It seems easy enough to say that the NSC has responsibility for the development and maintenance of all sport facilities around the nation. The reality is that the staff at the NSC is very much aware of the severe limitations that prove a distinctive hindrance to the mandate of the organisation.
Without appropriate machinery and in adequate numbers the staff cannot do much better than is currently the case relative to the maintenance of the playing surfaces of Arnos Vale #1 and #2.
There is also the reality that the monies provided for the NSC in any given year cannot facilitate the procurement of the requisite maintenance equipment. It cannot allow them to do much more than meet their overheads.
It is also the case that the NSC was by this time supposed to have organised some sort of marketing programme aimed at attracting sports groups of one sort or another to use our facilities for training in their pre-season. That has not happened, much to everyone’s disappointment.
The NSC therefore makes most of its earned annual income from religious organisations that use the facilities for one function of another. It is the reason that these organisations get some measure of priority. No one can blame the NSC in such circumstances.
With the boast of $6.5m allocated for the upgrade of our sports facilities it would be great to have some of this provided to the NSC for the work that needs to be done at the Arnos Vale Sports Complex.
Monies need to be allocated to facilitate the maintenance of the complex.
Given the heavy politicking that has started there seems little chance that our once idyllic Arnos Vale Sports Complex will receive the treatment it needs any time soon.