The country’s Sports Minister, Stephen Lashley, believes Barbados is on the right path as it continues to develop as a sporting nation, and says the pending renovation of the National Stadium, will further serve to enhance the island’s sports product.
Speaking a day after Barbadians celebrated 51 years of Independence, Lashley said for a small country, Barbados was able to boast of having a number of world class sporting facilities, especially the newly renovated Garfield Sobers Gymnasium.
With upgrades to the Gymnasium having been completed, Lashley told Barbados TODAY, the next step was to redevelop the 30-year-old National Stadium which was in dire need of repair, particularly the stands.
According to the Minister, the government recently approved the renovation of the National Stadium as the number one priority project which would be funded by the People’s Republic of China, who were also responsible for the $18 million renovation of the Gymnasium.
“The Government of China has indicated that they wish to finance through grant funding, a major project and they were two on the table and we have proposed the National Stadium to be funded by the People’s Republic of China and we hope very shortly that work can get started,” he said.
Three years ago, government spent three million dollars to lay an internationally-graded track at the National Stadium.
And given the history of trying to source funding for the National Stadium, Lashley expressed his delight in Cabinet’s approval to have the re-development of the facility addressed.
“An ultra-modern facility is what we are seeking to put at Waterford and I think once that Stadium is built and made available to our sports persons you will see a significant change in terms of the approach to coaching and preparation overall,” Lashley contended.
“Because I think our young people deserve a fully and certainly a modern stadium in which to prepare.”
Like the stadium, Lashley said the gymnasium also served as key element in the development of athletes and to enhance the growth of most indoor sports.
With the facility now fully functional again, he said it would now be marketed in order to attract international competitions to Barbados.
“We have done a really good job with the renovation of the Sir Garfield Sobers Gymnasium and that will be marketed now going forward in a way that could bring international competition to Barbados while at the same time providing an indoor facility to allow for our sports persons to excel,” he pointed out.
“Particularly in relation to netball which is played indoor globally, the internationally graded netball floor which has now been installed at the Gymnasium will provide that kind of national preparation particular for our netballers and any other indoor sports.”
He added: “I know I spoke some time ago in relation to sports being integral to the economic development of Barbados but currently Barbados is missing out on competition because we don’t have a fully functional Stadium.
“Once that stadium is built, a lot of international competitions Barbados can seek to host and we can seriously plan in terms of how to position sports being a key earner of foreign exchange through having teams here, having competition here.
“We want to ensure that the facility at the Stadium could house visiting teams through accommodation.”
Going forward, the Lashley expressed a desire to see see national sporting federations being more professional and athletes being properly managed.
“No Government actually manages sports, sports are managed by the federation. The role of the government is to provide infrastructure and various level of support,” he argued.
“Federations need to become more professional in their outlook and certainly how athletes are managed will have to change in relation to ensuring that we could actually move forward in a particular way.”