…but cycling, basketball, swimming not ready yet
Although Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar labelled it a “happy day” as she opened the $110 million refurbished Irwin Park Sporting Complex in her Siparia constituency on Wednesday, several aspects of the project remain incomplete.
Persad-Bissessar described the historic facility as the Queen’s Park of Siparia, saying that Government was committed to creating a vibrant sports industry in T&T. The project was started in 2012 by Phoenix Welding and Fabricated Ltd and was expected to be completed in May 2015, but it was delayed by the absence of a board at the Sports Company of T&T (SporTT).
While she watched local football team Siparia Spurs take on Club Sando and Moruga in the first fixtures on the new football turf, cycling cannot take place until the end of September as steel rods were still protruding from the uncovered track while work on the pool and basketball courts were yet to begin.
She said: “Today we are very happy, for the decades of neglect meant that the ground could not sustain the level of activities that members of the community craved. The pavilions became dilapidated, the grounds were not cut and fences were not repaired. Slowly but surely, people began to stay away from the field and gravitate to more harmful or negative means of recreation.
“This is why the Ministry of Sports and the Sports Company, the implementation arm of the ministry, were mandated to revise sporting activity at the community level by providing upgrades and new infrastructure where necessary to community grounds and parks in every part of T&T.”
She said since 2012, SporTT had refurbished 100 recreation grounds throughout the country. Contacted yesterday SporTT’s executive manager of business development and communication, Adrian Raymond said the cycling track would be ready by the end of September, as the contractor still has to apply a resin surface.
He said this was a request by the T&T Cycling Federation as it would allow them to host international tournaments. He said the refurbishment of the pool and basketball facilities would be done in Phase III of the project.
Project manager Dexter Brown said Phase III will be the construction of a multipurpose indoor facility which will house a 25m pool and a hardwood gymnasium for various sports such as basketball, netball, football, badminton and volleyball. However, no funds or date have been given for the start of the project. He said there would be a walk around with SporTT officials and the contractor to tie up loose ends.
Cycling track to be named after Njisane
Hailing national cycling sensation Njisane Phillip as a son of Siparia, Persad-Bissessar announced that the new track would be named after him. She added that Phillip is her husband, Dr Gregory Bissessar’s nephew. Persad-Bissessar also announced that the National Cycling Velodrome in Couva and the National Tennis Centre in Tacarigua would be opened in the coming week.
Sports Minister Brent Sancho said elite level cycling would now return to Siparia with the refurbished track. President of the T&T Cycling Federation Robert Farrier welcomed the new track and said special recognition of Phillip would help to inspire young sportsmen and women to excel. However, he said he could not comment on the track as he was not invited to the opening.
“It is always good to know that facilities are being named after some of our good performers in the country. It is good for the younger ones to see this and look to set goals to the levels those riders achieved.
“We welcome all the new facilities that are being constructed and it will bring a lot of glory to T&T. We have been making demands for the right facilities for our riders to train and compete for a long time as we are looking to spread the sport of cycling throughout T&T,” Farrier said.
Work at the facility actually started back in the early 1980s and it has been the home venue of former national cyclists Clyde Saney. Former national football captain Dexter Francis developed his skills at the grounds and it is where former Olympian Ian “Frinty” Morris trained for the 400m track event and played football. Marathon runners Moses Rangel and Paul Voisin, two winners of the T&T Marathon in the 1980s and 90s, used to the venue to train, while the netball court was where Phillip’s aunt, Marcia Dimsoy, played before she became a member of 1979 world netball team.
Multifaceted sporting complex
Sports Minister Brent Sancho said the Irwin Park Sporting Complex was now a multifaceted sport facility which boasted a Fifa-standard football field and would now become a premium location for Pro League, Super League and Women’s Premier League fixtures.
He said the cricket field was also ICC certified and should become a venue for the T&T Cricket Board’s premier cricket league. He also called on entrepreneurs to make full use of the opportunities to market themselves at the facilities as it would also help to create revenue to cover maintenance costs for the venue.
• 333m outdoor concrete cycling track
• 400m athletics grass track for amateur and recreational use
• International-standard football field
• International-standard cricket field
• Two 900-seat pavilions for cycling and football/cricket venues
• Car park