Surely the Nation newspaper was cracking an early “All Fools’ Day joke” when it published a full colour drawing of a spanking new $150 million National Stadium on the front page of last Wednesday’s newspaper, and asserted that “plans are in the pipeline for the construction of a new National Stadium to replace the run-down facility at Waterford”.
I maintain that this story qualifies as a “joke” because when one actually reads the reported speech of Minister of Sports, Stephen Lashley, one discovers that:-
. “funding is not currently available within the normal financing arrangements of the Government…”
. “perhaps we will start it on a phase basis…”
. “we are going to have to look at the possibility of getting grant funding, and that is what we are really preoccupied with now….”
. “ the sports council will be looking at a crowd funding initiative….. although this initiative can be somewhat slow…”
In other words, there is no money available for this project, and the Government really does not have much of a clue as to where money can or will come from!
The Minister also made the following very revealing comment: “The stadium is a plant that has really deteriorated with hardly any attention to it. We need to understand that…. we have to refresh our facilities….we have not done that in our country….. We have rust falling from the ceiling and cracks in the walls of the VIP stands.”
So, before we even talk about building a new $150 million stadium, we need to talk about why little or nothing was done over the years to maintain, upkeep and improve the current National Stadium.
We need to talk about whose duty it was to maintain and upkeep our one and only National Stadium; who failed in carrying out that duty; and who– if anyone– is going to be held accountable.
And while we are at it, perhaps we can talk a little about the devastating impact— psychologically and otherwise — that the deterioration and tragic closure of our country’s only stadium has had on our Barbadian athletes.
The National Stadium was opened in the year 1970 — some forty-six years ago. If it had been properly maintained, up-kept and improved over the years, it would still be a fit and functioning facility today!
There are far too many instances where Barbados of Government facilities not being properly maintained and up-kept! Indeed, this callous neglect of taxpayer-funded, Government-owned facilities is a scandal that needs to be denounced and proscribed. Barbados, after all, is a small, resource scarce developing country.
If successive Ministers of Sport and Chairmen and Directors of the National Sports Council had carried out their responsibilities, we would not now be faced with trying to find an elusive and burdensome $150 million.