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By Unity Labour Party

The issue

The Unity Labour Party (ULP) government has been investing unprecedentedly huge sums of money for the development of young people and the nation as a whole.  No government in the history of SVG has advanced the cause of young people as much as the ULP government has done; indeed, no government has even come close.  The evidence is there before us in terms of extraordinarily large investments in the education and training of young people, in job creation for youths, in targeted strategic interventions (YES, SET, ON-SITE, PRYME) for the young, in culture and the arts featuring the youths, and in sports and recreation.  The ULP government is for young people in every material particular.

Today, we sketch the big investments in sports particularly at the Arnos Vale Sporting Facility especially for cricket and at the Sir Vincent Beache Stadium at Diamond which focusses on athletics and football.

Currently, some EC $83 million is being invested in these two sports’ complexes: EC $38 million at Arnos Vale I primarily, but also at Arnos Vale II and Sion Hill, plus at Cumberland; and EC$ 45 million at the Diamond Facility.  The sum at the Sir Vincent Beache Stadium will increase as the complex there expands over the immediate-to-medium term.

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World Cup Cricket at Arnos Vale

The government of SVG was successful in its bid for five Super Eight games in the ICC-CWI T-20 World Cup to be played at Arnos Vale in June 2024; the first game is on June 13th.  The time between the announcement of the bid in October 2023 and the cricket matches in mid-June 2024 was very short.  But we are making it on time.  It has been an extraordinary effort spearheaded by the government.  SVG is one of six Caribbean countries which were successful in their bids.

In 2007, the successful bidders were given some two years to prepare; this time, a mere seven or so months, including the slow construction period over the Christmas-New Year holidays.  In 2007, SVG was not accorded games for the One-Day World Cup Championship.  We were awarded warm-up games instead of the competition matches themselves, largely due to the absence of an international airport and a sufficiency of hotel accommodation (number of rooms and quality rooms at one or two locations on main land St. Vincent).  Since February 2017 we have the Argyle International Airport and from March 2024 there is Sandals at Buccament plus other hotels which have expanded and upgraded.

In 2007, SVG invested EC $54 million (Arnos Vale I, Arnos Vale II, Sion Hill, and Stubbs).  At the principal site at Arnos Vale, we invested in major legacy innovations: Excellent drainage and playground facilities; the Double-Decker stand; the Administrative Centre; the Players’ Pavilion; the Media Complex; and upgraded the other facilities (President’s stand, Mike Findlay Stand, Frankie Thomas Stand, ECGC/PH Veira Stands).

Because of those investments in 2007, the government of SVG was able to build upon these excellent facilities in its bid for the 2024 T-20 World Cup. Indeed, nearly 70 percent of the EC $38 million being spent is on new facilities, particularly the six sets of lights and electronic scoreboard/replay facilities (some $17 million); ICT infrastructure; electrical infrastructure; roads (ring road, and new access road); the Mound (grassy mound, four installed pools and deck, bar, etc.) where “the bleachers” were located; and an extensive bundle of equipment required for hosting modern international-level cricket matches.

Additionally, expenditure has been allocated to rehabilitate and upgrade the sewerage and water systems; refreshing and rehabilitating existing buildings to high standards; upgraded pitch and field maintenance (including 18 pitches – six each of Arnos Vale I and for practice facilities at Arnos Vale II and Sion Hill).

On this project there are 20 Vincentian contractors at work.  Further, for imported equipment, lights, replay screen, fixtures and the like, procurement was done through six companies from Trinidad, Canada, United Kingdom, Barbados, Netherlands.  Equipment, fixtures, and installations came from among other places: China, India, UK, and United States.  Getting it all done has been a massive undertaking through the workings of the Arnos Vale Improvement Project Steering Committee (AVIPS), the Project Implementation Unit (PIU), the Local Organising Committee (LOC) which includes in addition to public servants, other professionals, Cricket West Indies, and the SVG Cricket Association, and the Ministerial Oversight Committee (F. Augustus Stephenson, Carlos James, and Camillo Gonsalves).  Ongoing reports were received by the Prime Minister and the Cabinet.

Meanwhile, the legislative, security, and administration framework had to be shaped by the Attorney General, Commissioner of Police, Head of Traffic Branch, Chief Immigration Officer, Comptroller of Customs, and the SVG Port Authority in conjunction with the appropriate regional mechanisms.  Reports were regularly given to the Office of the Prime Minister and the Cabinet for consideration and leadership.  The ULP government yet again demonstrated its large conception of life, living, and production; it has again shown its capacity for delivering as none has ever done before.

In the post-midnight hours on May 10, 2024, the House of Assembly passed the ICC Cricket World Cup Bill 2024.  Its assent and publication have swiftly followed.  The appropriation of monies by Parliament for the project were done by a Supplementary Appropriation Bill in late 2023 and the Appropriation Bill in January 2024.  A free people, through their organised democratic institutions and legal mechanisms in concert with CARICOM, Cricket West Indies, and the people of SVG have performed admirably.  Cricket, an import through colonialism, has been adopted and adapted by our people, used as an instrument of our very liberation from colonialism, and made our own, will in mid-June 2024 be on display before the world.  All this is for the further upliftment of our people, especially the youths, now, and for the future! It’s amazing!

Sir Vincent Beache Stadium

The current estimated project cost of the Diamond Sporting Facility, officially-known as the Sir Vincent Beache Stadium, is approximately EC $45 million funded by a local loan of EC $14.65 million, an International Development Association/World Bank soft loan of EC $3.4 million, and a Saudi Development Fund (SDF) soft-loan of EC $27 million.  As the phased approach to the Stadium’s construction builds out, it is likely that the estimated cost will rise accordingly.  Thus far, there has been an expenditure of some EC $17 million.  The SDF loan was approved by Parliament last week on Friday, May 10; the bulk of the expenditure for 2024 will come from the SDF loan.

The objectives of this project are to promote a healthy, active, and physically fit population, to stimulate and support participation in sports (athletics and football), and to engender greater public interest in competitive sports.  The facility is to be used for local-national, regional, and international sporting events.

The project, at current cost, is being executed in two phases.  Activities under Phase I include: The construction of a high-quality athletic track, a football field, seating accommodation, rest rooms and changing rooms.  The following activities have been completed: Laying of the athletic track; installation of bleachers; construction of retaining wall and security booth; completion of perimeter fencing on compound; construction of drainage on the eastern side of the track; installation of sprinkler systems; bathrooms (3 females, 3 males, 1 for persons with disabilities, and a janitor’s closet); commencement of works on ancillary buildings (site storage, changing rooms, concession stand); installation of roof covering for the bleachers; bid documents prepared for consultancy services for connected facilities (ancillary buildings, warm-up track, lighting, and retention tank); and award of contract for the construction of the administrative building.

In the current financial year, January – December 2024, the planned activities include, and ongoing: Design and supervision of certain physical facilities (draining, roadway, site storage, ancillary buildings, concession stand, retention track, footpaths, access roads, landscaping); finalization of roof covering for bleachers; construction of administrative building; installations of warm-up tracks, installation of lighting; and finalisation of preparation for the football filed.

Meanwhile across SVG

Meanwhile, across SVG, the government is building-out and improving other sporting facilities through the central government and the National Lotteries Authority.  Here and there some sporting facilities (hard courts and playing fields) require rehabilitation.  There is a structured programme, ongoing.  But all cannot be done at the same time; that is a matter of elemental practicality; nevertheless, they are being done, day-by-day sweet Jesus!

At the same time, the ULP government is providing unprecedented support for athletes for education and training (at home and abroad), employment, and participating in competitions (at home and abroad).

It is unfortunate that some administrators of certain sporting associations play petty partisan politics because of their own partisan political inclinations and personal agendas, unconnected to the interests and welfare, of sportsmen and sportswomen. Some of them are more interested in advancing their personal and opposition agendas.  But such backward, retrograde persons cannot hold back the sporting progress in SVG in every material particular.

Final note

As always, the young people are saying, “ULP for now and for the future”.  Let’s continue to work for our youths and our nation.

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