Western Grandstand : The Montego Bay Stadium isn't cutting it
I am no fan of vandalism. In addition to being destructive, it will require resources that could be used for other useful purposes to effect repairs, which makes the entire exercise counterproductive; especially in situations that require fiscal responsibility.
With the Montego Bay Sports Complex jam-packed for last Saturday's ISSA-FLOW Cup schoolboy football fixture between Cornwall College and Rusea's, the authorities were forced to close the gates to the stadium, leaving thousands of fans on the outside hopping mad.
While some of the those fans went home bitterly disappointed, others decided to create an unholy mix between enthusiasm, indiscipline and vandalism and cut their way into the stadium, destroying sections of the perimeter fencing around the 7,500-capacity facility, creating a dangerous standing-room-only situation with more than 11,000 fans.
Although I do agree that some amount of indiscipline was involved in the unconventional method the 'fence cutters' used to enter the stadium, I find it hard to condemn them, especially those fans who turned up at the venue fully prepared to pay but were locked out because of the limited capacity of the stadium.
Anybody who understands the history, tradition and rivalry between Cornwall College and Rusea's would realise that any game between these two teams is going to attract a full house, regardless of where the game is being played. In addition, the 'must-see' mentality of many fans means they will do whatever it takes to ensure that they see the game.
It is against that background that I would like to revisit the original plan for the Montego Bay Sports Complex, which was given to the people of Montego Bay as a gift by the Venezuelan government, via the San Jose Accord. Based on what was said at the groundbreaking, the stadium should have been much bigger.
At the time of the groundbreaking, the people of Montego Bay were told that they would be getting a modern $1.4 billion 'U' shape stadium capable of seating 20,000 fans. It was further emphasised that the 'U' shape would create the scope for future expansion of the facility.
While it was never explained why the original plan was changed, resulting in the finished product being a 7,500-seat stadium, minus the curve to create the 'U,' I believe the people of Montego Bay got a raw deal from the government of the day and the Urban Development Corporation, which constructed the facility.
On the evidence of what unfolded last Saturday at the FLOW Cup game between Cornwall College and Rusea's, it is quite clear that the Montego Bay Stadium is woefully inadequate, which makes it a target for vandalism whenever there is a big game with the potential to attract more than 7,500 fans.
In addition, with Montego Bay as the nation's tourist capital, and with global sports tourism a major money-spinner, surely having such a small stadium must be a significant hindrance to whatever ambition might exist to cash in on any sports-tourism activity that might require significant seating.
In fact, when one considers that this stadium is located in an area where we have thousands of hotel rooms and numerous major attractions, I don't think it would be overambitious to be thinking of hosting an event like the Diamond League. However, the 'chicken coop-like' Montego Bay Stadium would make it impossible, so there is a need to either expand the current facility or build a bigger stadium.