This week we return to the thorny issue of our sports facilities, the Arnos Vale Sports Complex in particular, and the failure of the authorities to ensure that they are appropriately maintained.
Arnos Vale hard courts
A few weeks ago Grant Connell addressed the matter of the hard courts at the Arnos Vale Sports Complex, the doyen on sports facilities in the nation, under the direct responsibility of the National Sports Council (NSC).
Connell’s article merely rehashed the several critical issues we have so often identified in this Column but which appear to have fallen on deaf ears.
The hard courts were last at Arnos Vale were last properly resurfaced several years ago and at very great expense. At the time a company operating out of Florida was given the responsibility and many watched the arduous process used to lay the top surface that was done manually.
Immediately following the resurfacing of the hard courts everyone was eager to make mention of the sensitivity of the newly laid material and cautioned against wearing high-heeled shoes, not placing chairs or any material with sharp edges on the surface. We were also told that care must be taken not to allow activities outside of the sports for which the courts were intended.
Unfortunately the care and caution did not last long and soon there were scrapes and minor indentations everywhere. Eventually we began to see holes.
Repairs to the affected areas were slow and when eventually some attention was paid to the surface we had cement being used, in stark contradiction to the original material used during the resurfacing some years ago.
The Arnos Vale hard courts were originally constructed for tennis, allowing the country to host regional competitions.
Following the resurfacing some years ago the hard courts were used to host the Caribbean Netball Tournament. The local netball association often used the courts to host the opening ceremonies of its annual championships. Indeed on the 50th anniversary of the netball association the opening ceremony featured more than 50 teams to mark the occasion and it all took place at the Arnos Vale hard courts.
The volleyball association often used the south western court to host competitions including the OECS championships some years ago.
Basketball used the north eastern court for some games in its annual competitions, training teams and often for those wishing to take a sweat.
The south eastern court was used for several years by those wishing to practice tennis and for a long time by Walford McKie for his tennis classes.
For many years the Rotary Club organised softball cricket competitions for charity on the courts.
In the recent past the four courts have been used as host to a number of shows, the most popular of which is the annual wet fete.
It does appear that despite all of the earlier attempts at being cautious regarding what happens on the hard courts little attention has actually been paid to their maintenance. The net result is that the courts may well now be considered dangerous to those who are serious about practising any sport.
The buildings around the hard courts are in a state of disrepair and have not been the object of attention of the authorities for a very long time.
Perhaps it is the absence of an adequate budget that so plagues the NSC that it has been unable to engage in any form of maintenance at the hard courts.
But the hard courts constitute only one small part of the greater malaise that infects the sports facilities of this nation.
Arnos Vale #2
Arnos Vale #2 must be one of the most expensive parking lots in St Vincent and the Grenadines.
One is not certain whether the NSC is clear as to what precisely it wants to do with Arnos Vale #2.
Arnos Vale #2 was regarded as the warm up facility for cricket contests being held at Arnos Vale #1. It was hoped that the facility would be so prepared and maintained that it would serve as a good second ground to the prestigious field inside the arena.
Unfortunately Arnos Vale #2 has never really received the attention it deserves.
In the lead up to our hosting of the goat cook matches for CWC2007 Arnos Vale #2 received much attention as resources were allocated to bring it up to international standard. Initially when one perused the work one got the impression that as much attention was paid to this facility as was to Sion Hill and Stubbs. It was one of the four facilities that received extensive and, dare we say, expensive upgrading.
Then something happened.
After so much by way of expense we witnessed Arnos Vale #2 being transformed for overlay only and not for practice by the visiting teams.
When the goat cook contest was completed Arnos Vale#2 was back to its former self, a veritable patch to serve whatever needs emerged during the passage of time.
Not surprisingly therefore, the facility returned to being a parking lot for major activities being held on the inside of Arnos Vale #1.
It should be mentioned here that Arnos Vale #2 has served as a parking lot even when the weather suggests otherwise. The most recent example of this was last Friday’s wet fete. Vehicles were on Arnos Vale 2 despite the rains that we had been having for the days prior to and on the day of the fete itself.
For all the users of Arnos Vale #2 the arrangements in terms of available toilet facilities are decidedly poor, leaving much to be desired. For the most part the facilities on Arnos Vale #2 are too few to accommodate the number of users on any given day. On many occasions the facilities are locked and therefore not available for use. While there is talk of vandalism it is also true that there is no one there to monitor the facilities while users are engaged and who is responsible for closing up once the use is terminated. This is a management problem.
Interestingly, this is the same Arnos Vale #2 that is offered to the organisers of the annual Belfongo Football Competition, local cricket and athletics. No one seems to care about the quality of the surface and the potential dangers posed to the health and wellbeing of the participants. Safety does not appear to be an issue.
Perhaps we should remind ourselves sat Arnos Vale is only covered by public liability insurance when the West Indies Cricket Board (WICB) is compelled to do so by the International Cricket Council (ICC) when hosting regional and international competitions. The WICB gets public liability insurance for all the facilities being used.
The foregoing therefore means that for all of the activities hosted at the Arnos Vale Sports Complex, the participants, patrons and staff alike and all uninsured should anything untoward occur while using the facilities.
Perhaps we should erect a sign at the Sports Complex indicating to all of the aforementioned categories of persons that they use the facilities at their own risk.
The Arnos Vale Sports Complex is supposed to be the nation’s premier sporting facility but one would never know that when one peruses the facilities and their poor maintenance record.
The private boxes are in a state of disrepair as is much of the complex. Doors have either totted or broken. The fence at the front has rusted out and so poses a direct threat to patrons of virtually every box. Surely some arrangement must be made with the owners of the boxes to determine areas of responsibility and commitment to maintenance standards.
At least one of the toilets serving the private boxes has had a problem for years and still need to be appropriately addressed. A similar problem has been identified at the Players Pavilion since the hosting of the goat cook matches and is yet to be appropriately rectified.
The toilets downstairs the double decker stands have been out of commission for years and have not been repaired.
The state of the remaining toilets is cause for concern.
The galvanised roofs are in constant need of monitoring as rust often corrodes the material holding them down. We often have to wait until complaints of flapping of galvanise becomes unbearable to take action.
We appear to have spent much of our time focused on the state of the playing surface but even there we have major problems as there is often no resources to procure the treatment the grass needs to be maintained at an international standard.
The days when St Vincent and the Grenadines was place of choice for international matches in the sport of cricket appear to have disappeared without even a whimper. Little St Kitts and Nevis have become more of an attraction for international cricket competitions that St Vincent and the Grenadines. They are on the international calendar for almost every year in the recent past.
Vincentians can peruse the Arnos Vale Sports Complex at any time and judge for themselves whether we have live dup to our intention of producing and sustaining a world-class sport facility.