Sun | Oct 21, 2018

Taxpayers carrying Trelawny stadium's multimillion-dollar load

Published:Wednesday | January 3, 2018 | 12:00 AMPaul Clarke
A section of the Trelawny Multipurpose Stadium.

The Trelawny Multipurpose Stadium at Florence Hall continues to be a drag on the Government's coffers, accounting for more than $50 million annually towards its operating expenses, while offering few opportunities to fund itself out of its current non-productive state.

In 2014, the stadium received a $49.1 million grant from the national Budget, $24.7 million of which was earmarked for the offsetting of its operating expenses, even though it is yet to prove that it has the potential to be a viable investment. It also accounted for $35.2 million the previous year.

Approximately $52.17 million has been set aside in budgetary support for the facility's upkeep in recent years, an increase of 6.25 per cent over the 2014 figure.

Meanwhile, the annual operating expenses for the facility for financial year ending March 2017 stood at $36,351,960, according to Major Desmon Brown, general manager of Independence Park, which manages the stadium.

The Trelawny Multipurpose Stadium was constructed in 2007 with a loan of US$30 million from China for the hosting of that year's ICC Cricket World Cup warm-up matches and the opening ceremony.

Since then, however, only a handful of competitive cricket matches and a few Trelawny Major League football championship games have been played there.

The venue's most prominent tenant, the Jamaica Jazz and Blues Festival, which drew thousands of patrons yearly, has folded, leaving the facility without any form of revenue stream.

... No infrastructure, no investment

Major Desmon Brown has pointed to the lack of certain infrastructure at the facility for its failure to attract investments through events hosting.

"The major reason why this facility has been underutilised is the fact that the stadium is short of some of the necessary infrastructure to make it more marketable," cited Brown.

"But it should be known that it is the intention of the Government to make the Trelawny Stadium the centre of its sports tourism programme, and funds have been requested from the Ministry of Finance to commence the first phase in Financial Year 2018-2019," Brown stated.

Key to the plan, as cited by Brown, is the establishment of a cricket development centre with a gym and improved medical facilities to boost the stadium's attractiveness as a potential venue for large- and small-scale events.

Brown said that the Government funded the installation of an irrigation system that is now operational and that will allow the playing surface to be kept in a proper condition.

"In addition, the Government has also invested in equipment for the changing room and cricket practice area," Brown said.

paul.clarke@gleanerjm.com