Ms Babsy, please put our stadiums to use
While I have no more than a passing interest in partisan politics, I must admit that I am desperately hoping that the new Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) administration will do more to advance the cause of sports in western Jamaica than the previous administration did.
It is no secret that it was the People's National Party (PNP), under the leadership of P.J. Patterson, who created the region's two best sporting facilities: the Trelawny Stadium and the Montego Bay Stadium. However, it is equally true that the party is also guilty of allowing them to become white elephants.
The Trelawny Stadium, which was constructed to host the opening ceremony for the 2007 ICC Cricket World Cup, was at that time hailed as an exceptional facility, which many distinguished cricket aficionados, including former West Indies captain Brian Lara, said was ideal to host top-flight international cricket, to include Test matches.
NO MEANINGFUL MATCHES
However, despite its beauty, elegance, and ideal location in the heart of the island's tourism belt, among many other virtues, the facility has not hosted a meaningful cricket match in many years, and in terms of meeting the mandate for which it was created, it has failed miserably.
While the last administration hinted that it had planned to rename the facility in honour of track and field superstar Usain Bolt, and in so doing transform it into a centre of excellence for track and field, nothing concrete was ever done to suggest any serious intention to follow through on the idea.
It is against that background that I am calling on the new minister of sports, Olivia 'Babsy' Grange, to step up to the plate and take the stadium out of the abyss of uselessness, into which it has fallen. Surely, as a relatively poor nation, we can't allow a US$30 million facility to go to waste.
Since the Trelawny Stadium is unlikely to become a major international cricket stadium as the few international matches that come to the island are played at Sabina Park in Kingston, I am suggesting that the facility be converted into a track and field-football stadium, which could still be named in honour of Bolt.
I am sure that if a serious marketing plan was put in place, we should be able to attract the attention of some of the American sporting organisations that are constantly looking for locations with a warm climate during the winter months for pre-season preparations. If these teams are prepared to travel to faraway places such as Australia, I can't see them not wanting to come to Jamaica.
Insofar as the Montego Bay Stadium is concerned, I would like to see it serving the community much better, especially insofar as the running track is concerned. I think the schools in the parish should be allowed to use the track to prepare their athletes for events such as the annual ISSA Boys and Girls' Championships.
I can't see the sense in having a standard running track sitting idly by while our young athletes who attend schools within 10 minutes of the stadium are preparing for major championships on dirt and grass tracks, which, in addition to being far from ideal, also expose them to injuries that could be avoided on a proper surface.
I believe if Minister Grange could come up with creative ways to make the Trelawny Stadium and the Montego Bay Stadium viable, she would be doing a most welcome service for western Jamaica, which has developed a long and distinguished history of producing world-class athletes.
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