Due to a lack of alternative venues, some of the island’s sporting federations will now have to face 14 months of hardship when the Wildey Gymnasium closes next April to undergo major renovations.
And while Minister of Sport Stephen Lashley expressed his sympathy towards those federations which will be affected, he has lamented the fact that not enough attention has been paid towards developing other sporting facilities on the island.
The Gymnasium is set to undergo a $19 million renovation and redesigning project beginning next April, which is expected to last 14 months.
And during that time, the all-purpose facility –– which is home to several sporting federations –– will not be available for use.
“Over the years we have not focused our attention enough on building out the kind of facilities that we should have in Barbados and this is really what we recognize now.
“When we close the gymnasium there are limited options, because we only have one gymnasium and we have not done the work on the National Stadium over the years,” Lashley admitted today, shortly before the signing of the design contract by China Northeast Architectural Design and Research Institute Co. Ltd at his Sky Mall, Haggatt Hall office.
“When you look at the options in terms of indoor facilities, there are not many. We are faced with few options, but that is something that the nation and government has to address. Over the years we have not focused our attention enough on building out the kind of facilities that we should have in Barbados, and this is really what we recognize now.”
However, the minister insisted this was a project which could not be delayed any further.
He said while it might cause a lengthy inconvenience, especially considering that the National Stadium was also undergoing some much needed renovations, once completed the Gymnasium would be a first-class facility.
“We are cognizant of the challenges, but I am also confident that we cannot allow the gymnasium to remain in the current state because then we would have further complaints, so there is going to be a period of sacrifice, but necessary sacrifice…” Lashley stated.
“It is a long time, but of course this is work that has to be done… I am aware that of course this particular work comes at a time when the National Stadium, in terms of the stands, has had to be closed because of safety purposes, but this is really the kind of hand that you are dealt.
“If we could have done the work and allow the gymnasium to remain available that would be ideal, but as I said this is a very extensive renovation and upgrading project and it would not be safe to have the facility used while the construction and renovation is going on,” the minister further added.
Lashley said he had already asked the National Sports Council along with management of the gymnasium to work very closely with the federations to ensure that the period of time did not overly deprive them of the kind of training that was necessary.
“That is the best that I can do,” he maintained.
Despite the obvious inconvenience which they are expected to encounter, at least two presidents whose federations depend heavily on the availability of the gymnasium, told Barbados TODAY they were in favour with the reconstruction.
President of the Barbados Volleyball Association, John Griffith, who has been using the gymnasium since the 1980’s to host the Division One competition, said he understood that work needed to be done to get the facility up to par.
“It’s definitely going to disrupt our local competitions, but there’s not much we can do about it. The gymnasium is in dire need of repairs to the floor, roof, showers and bathroom,” he revealed.
“So while it will be disruptive, it will definitely be in better condition for everyone when it finally re-opens.”
Derrick Garrett, head of the Barbados Amateur Basketball Association, also echoed those same sentiments.
“We will now have to rely heavily on the Barbados Community College to host games, although I think that venue will be in very high demand.
“However, repairs to the Gymnasium are badly needed so I understand the need for it to be closed,” Garrett noted.
“The one thing I want to see though, is that when it is reopened, for much more emphasis to be placed on sport rather than on entertainment.”