PORT OF SPAIN — Years after the Brian Lara Stadium failed to make its original construction deadline, a further $185 million is still needed to fix the stadium before it can be opened to the public.
The stadium was originally intended to be used for the 2007 ICC World Cup and a whopping $1.1 billion has already been spent on it. But even after it is eventually completed, it is unlikely that international or regional matches will be played there, as Housing and Urban Development Minister Dr. Roodal Moonilal yesterday said it might be used instead for school cricket.
Speaking at the Naparima Bowl, San Fernando, yesterday, Moonilal said Cabinet had finally approved the resumption of work at the controversial stadium, which was started in 2005 with a projected cost of $500 million.
“We went to cabinet a few months ago with a proposal concerning the Brian Lara Stadium, and the cabinet had given the okay to continue the work,” he said.
“There are some remedial works there to be done, as well as some re-engineering of the facility. I think the amount of money is in the vicinity of $185 million to continue that work. We are hoping to at least continue that work.
“We are very keen to finish the project because of the amount of money already spent — $1.1 billion — and it needs another $185 million, in a facility that at the end of the day we may hand it over to the Secondary Schools Cricket League.”
Despite cabinet’s approval, no funding has yet been allocated to continue the project, which Moonilal said would be finished before the People’s Partnership term ends in 2015.
“We are looking for a source of funding to complete it… I believe that by 2015 or thereabouts, we should be in a position to complete and have the facility and at least have some type of games taking place,” he said.
Although the project started under the People’s National Movement government, the People’s Partnership has been subjected to heavy criticism for the delays in completing the stadium, initially intended to be a state-of-the-art facility for the country’s athletes.
The Urban Development Corporation, which is overseeing the project, was also criticised for sanctioning the hosting of Carnival parties and sporting events in the car park earlier this year and late 2012.
However, Moonilal yesterday defended the delays, saying a proper survey of the stadium had to be done before work continued.
“We could not have gone full speed ahead and do anything, because we had to do a comprehensive assessment,” he said.
“If we did not do the comprehensive assessment, the very media would have asked for the technical reports. So we had to do all our assessments and get international consultants, which we did.” (Guardian)