With the Barbados Secondary Schools Athletics Championships (BSSAC) mere weeks away, there is a renewed call for the government to provide a new national stadium to facilitate the island’s most promising athletes.
Early last year president of the Barbados Union of Teachers (BUT) Pedro Shepherd had requested swift movement by the National Sports Council and the Ministry of Sports to restore the state-owned stadium so that young competitors could have the benefit of the track at Waterford.
Chief Executive Officer of the National Sports Council Jerry Blenman and Minister of Sports Stephen Lashley had stated then that a new stadium was indeed a national priority and they had looked at a number of measures at getting the facility back on track.
There was no specific timeline laid down by authorities suggesting when the erection of a new stadium would come and ever since there had been little to no movement in regards to a new facility.
During the launch of the BSSAC 2018 this morning at the Coleridge and Parry School in St Peter, assistant meet director Andrew Brathwaite was singing the same tune in signalling the need for a track and field arena.
“All that we are hoping for is a stadium so we can stage the meet in the way that we want to stage it. As a member of the organizing committee, I am making that call upfront. We really need a facility to bring out the best in the athletes that are preparing for competition.
“We know that this is the training ground for the athletes moving to the CARFITA stage and other junior meets and we certainly need the infrastructure in place to allow us to see the best in our athletes as we go forward,” he said.
Brathwaite explained that thought was given to occupy the Usain Bolt Sports Complex but a number question marks were raised in terms of the quality of the track named after former Barbadian 110m hurdles champion Ryan Brathwaite.
“Some persons (coaches) indicated that the track would have been too hard for the athletes who would be competing on back to back days and also BSSAC falls very close to the CARFITA games and persons were of the opinion that people could pick up injuries based on the hardness of the track. With that in mind, we decided to stay with the quality track of the National Stadium.”
He added that the number of spectators which are an estimated 1500 will remain the same due to the challenge with the stadium
“The track at the stadium is not a concern it is the stands and other infrastructure that (bothers) us … The reality of it is this is a money-making exercise and given the limitations of the stadium we have had to take into account the numbers that we will bring from schools which will be at a reduced cost and match that against the public who would pay a little bit more money. We try to keep it balanced.”
Meet director Dave Small also ushered in the idea of a new stadium but he stated that despite the challenges the system put in place where there are only two zones – the Esther Maynard and Frank Blackman – has been working for the last couple years.
“We believe this is a successful format and as Mr Braithwaite mentioned the situation with the national stadium I think we will be in this format for probably ten years or so. If you can tell me that we will have a new stadium in about three years I will be happy but for now, this format seems to be working. It actually brings schools a little closer and more athletes have the opportunity to qualify.