Those sports facilities again!!
Over the past weekend we witnessed the official opening of the Park Hill playing field, an undertaking of the National Lotteries Authority. Not very far away is the newly constructed South Rivers playing field, complete with lighting; another project of the National Lotteries Authority.
Of course it should not be lost on us that the aforementioned two most recent sports facilities are located in the Prime Minister’s constituency.
No one should envy a Prime Minister ensuring that the facilities, inclusive of those for sports, in his constituency are among the best in the country.
Word is that the two facilities, one significantly larger than the other, would of course facilitate the playing of Cricket, before anything else. Football has already been played at the Park Hill field. This was done during the recently concluded Windward Islands Schools Games.
Indeed the facility at Park Hill has a very high mound for the Cricket pitch reminiscent of the one that once occupied the middle of the Arnos Vale #1 playing field. One would have thought that such a mound went out with the war but that seems not to be the case.
There may well be outstanding issues relative to the satisfactory completion of the Park Hill facility and these will eventually be appropriately addressed.
Both facilities would serve the respective communities very well and would be a boon for the sport of Cricket in the area.
But there remains the broader concern that we all have for the state of sport facilities across St Vincent and the Grenadines.
NLA and facilities
The National Lotteries Authority has been involved in the provision of several sports facilities around the country.
In the past the organisation was involved more in the provision of lights for the existing hard courts in tandem with VINLEC. In this vein several hard courts around St Vincent and the Grenadines were lit, much to the delight of those eager to play sport after school and work.
In the recent past we have seen the significant upgrade to the hard court at Biabou and the provision of one at Questelles, complete with a pavilion.
The NLA was instrumental in the procurement of the Cecil Cyrus Squash Complex for dual purposes. One part of the facility was significantly transformed into the headquarters of the NLA itself. The other part remained committed to Squash.
The NLA therefore provided Squash with its official home, headquarters and Squash courts. Although limited in space the facility has nonetheless been utilised to the full and has been host to several editions of the OECS Squash Championships and one edition of the Caribbean Squash Championships.
The NLA, some years ago, assumed responsibility for the Victoria Park, a facility that was hitherto under the ambit of the Kingstown Town Board. Since the change has been made we have witnessed greater attention has been paid to the facility.
Former President of the Taekwondo Association, Brent Black, has been assigned responsibility for the Victoria Park and has ensured since then the establishment of a structure led by former West Indies, Windward Islands and St Vincent and the Grenadines Cricketer, Nixon McLean, that has delivered remarkable work.
The attention paid to the surface of the Victoria Park for sporting events has proven to be worth the while. Admittedly, when the system was first put in place by Brent Black he and the NLA received a tremendous amount of criticism for ensuring that time was allocated for the recovery of the field during any season. The management also insisted on no play when very wet.
In the end the sports fraternity has been able to access the Victoria Park for Athletics and Football for the better part of the year.
The Victoria Park is still available for the annual Carnival Festival and other cultural events but the availability to sport remains consistent. All that is required is forward planning and flexibility on the part of all concerned.
Over the past few years several schools have accessed the Victoria Park to host their annual Athletics Competition. They enjoy the facility as allowing them greater control over their students on the day of competition.
Other NLA Projects
We are of the understanding that the NLA has other sports projects, some of which have already been completed.
We have always been told that the NLA has a mandate for sport and culture and so we expect that part of the sport component would inevitably be the construction of facilities.
NSC Area Management Committees
Primary areas of concern among the sport fraternity are the location of facilities as well as about their maintenance.
The National Sports Council’s (NSC) mandate is that of sports facilities under its ambit.
We are aware that the Squash Complex, the Tennis Headquarters and the Victoria Park do not fall under the NSC.
The understanding seems to be that consistent with its mandate relative to sports facilities across the country the NSC is expected to aid in the establishment of Area Management Committees. This is a task that seems more challenging that it ought to be.
For some reason politics seems to get into everything in this country. Politicians seem to want to ensure that the Area Management Committees are composed of party loyalists instead of persons appropriately qualified and adequately equipped to facilitate what is required to manage the facilities in a professional manner. Thus it is that thus far only a few Area Management Committees have been functional to an acceptable standard. It is also the reason why to this day all of the outdoor facilities under the ambit of the NSC are still maintained from the head offices at Arnos Vale.
In these times it remains a ridiculous reality that for the most part, when an area field is to be cut, a team leaves Arnos Vale to do this. Surely it makes more sense to facilitate the empowerment of Area Management Committees.
It is recommended therefore that the NSC review the matter of the establishment of Area Management Committees. These organisations should be composed of individuals who have the competencies to facilitate the management of the facilities in their respective areas. These Committees must be mandated with the responsibility to engage individuals capable of taking care of the facilities and monitoring their performances in this regard.
The NSC ought to provide training for the different areas of responsibility under the remit of the Area Management Committees. Across the country the respective personnel must be appropriately trained.
Area Management Committees must, over time be adequately equipped with the requisite equipment to facilitate the proper maintenance of the facilities under their care. The equipment must be used for the intended purpose while the NSC ensures their maintenance by apportioning responsibilities to appropriately qualified persons. There must be a maintenance schedule that is adhered to and records kept in this regard.
There is an overall tendency to treat government owned and/or provided equipment much differently from one’s own. The same can be said of party loyalists who often act as though no one can correct them or discipline one a party representative has gotten them their respective jobs. This poses a tremendous challenge to those who should otherwise be in authority.
This should not be the case if the Area Management Committee is given that sense of ownership and appropriately qualified and competent persons are involved rather than mere party loyalists.
It is also very important that there be regular meetings of the Area Management Committees by themselves and period meetings between the NSC and these Committees. This approach facilitates the appropriate growth development of the Committees and allows for the kind of monitoring and evaluation so necessary to guarantee sustainability and overall success.
The NSC cannot only boast of Arnos Vale #1. That is not good enough. It has a much broader responsibility by which its overall performance must be judged.
There has to be a meeting of minds between the NLA and the NSC in respect of the approach to the establishment of sports facilities and their maintenance and sustainability.
It is perhaps necessary for the NSC itself to have resident the pertinent expertise in respect of the location, design and construction of sports facilities. This is important given the organisation’s primary mandate.
It is also particularly important that the NSC work in close partnership with the NLA in ensuring that the various facilities meet the requirements of the respective international sports federations and have the involvement of the national sports associations in this regard.
The partnership must also extend to a determination, realistically, of the annual requirements for adequate maintenance of the established sports facilities such that over time the country can host regional and international competitions ate different venues across the country.
There have often been lengthy delays between the construction of a facility and the involvement of the NSC. At the same time the NSC must satisfy the concerns in respect of ensuring that competent Area Management Committees are in place once a facility is under construction so that at its completion the organisation would be ready to incorporate it into its overall work schedule.
We can go ahead and construct sports facilities across the country, willy nilly.
They would be of little account to the development of sport in St Vincent and the Grenadines if we do not ensure at the same time that there is a level of professionalism evident at every stage of the process.
There is more than enough blame to share around for the often seemingly haphazard approach we have to sports facilities in this country.
We can certainly do much better but it calls for a change in the mind-set and in the overall way we choose to address the business of sport.