Whoever wins the January 19 general election should have as one of its primary targets, the building of a full-size, multi-purpose stadium, rather than a mini-stadium, says former sports minister Stephen Lashley.
During an interview with Barbados TODAY, Lashley said that while the incumbent administration had proposed to build a mini-stadium, should they retain the next government, questions needed to be asked regarding whether a mini-stadium would reduce the importance of having a full-fledged, multi-purpose standard facility.
“I hope that the idea of a mini-stadium does not reduce the importance of having a full-fledged multi-purpose standard facility so that sports can do what it can. I think our young athletes would be very encouraged to see that they can have modern facilities, and recognize that countries such as the Bahamas and Jamaica have been able to attract events to their countries because they have facilities. I think Barbados now needs to get into that.
“So, whether it is a mini-stadium, whether it is a full-fledged stadium, whatever is going to be done must be done in a way that it is purpose-built and towards attracting international events, particularly things like mini fairs and stuff like that to really expose our athletes to international competitions while at the same time attracting much-needed investments which I think sports can do in Barbados,” he explained.
Lashley, who served under the Democratic Labour Party from 2008 to 2018, said his views were that of a former minister of sport and not a political one as he chooses to remain impartial despite the ongoing elections.
He also added that while Barbados has the attention of the government of China for grand funding, it was very important that Barbados get what it needed as opposed to settling for funding that would not really serve the country well in the medium to long term.
“We have always had negotiation going on with the People’s Republic of China with regards to funding for a stadium and my position on that is I hope the mini is not a stadium other than an international quality facility. I think Barbados has a pristine opportunity of attracting major international events such as the international relay fair which would add to the revenue generation that sports can provide.
“So, I have no problem with the idea because certainly when I was minister, we were moving in a direction of obtaining funding from China but it was focused on a completely new Stadium at Waterford. So, I think what we need to do is go a little further to ask what will happen to the Waterford facility. Is it that it will be abandoned, is it that it is going to be turned into something?” Lashley queried.
Lashley also questioned what were the plans for the National Sports Council. He also noted that millions of dollars had been spent on the Garfield Sobers Sports Complex and yet it is being grossly under-utilised.
“Sports development is an area we need to pay attention to and also it would be interesting to learn what the plans are for the sports council. Before I left office, we had a plan to basically modernise the sports council, restructure it and therefore I would like to know what the future plans are for the sports council because the sports council has to be the key driver for a modern approach to sports.
“I still think that the role of the sports council is seriously underplayed and the resources of sports are under-budgeted and we still have this notion that we put all the money in tourism when in fact you should be pumping some of that money into sports. There is nothing wrong with projecting towards full transformation towards the sporting sector and ensuring that the agencies that have prime responsibility for it are modernized because the sports council is ripe for modernization and I think if we can place some emphasis on that as we also build out facilities such as the stadium, then it would really be a useful exercise,” Lashley added.