Location debate - Henry, Anderson weigh in on proposed McKenley Stadium site
Holmwood's head coach for the girls track-and-field team, Dave Anderson, said that despite talk of plans for the development of a synthetic running track in central Jamaica, he feels that schools in Manchester will see little benefit if the proposed site is confirmed.
Many members of the local track-and-field fraternity have called for a venue with a synthetic track to be developed in central Jamaica as the region has produced many of the nation's top female sprinters.
The area has also had a secondary school crowned National Girls Athletics Champion every year since 1979. Despite this success, central Jamaica does not have the top-level facilities needed to sustain these schools' track-and-field development.
As such, many of these schools travel to the G.C. Foster College in St Catherine for track work, but Anderson describes this as exhausting.
"Without a doubt, I'd endorse a synthetic track in central Jamaica. When you take into consideration driving to Spanish Town to train and return to Christiana (in Manchester), that's basically a double session. The travelling alone will take a toll on the kids' bodies. It makes no sense travelling that far. At times, we have a lot of rain in central Manchester, so that would be another reason we definitely need a synthetic track in central Jamaica," Anderson said.
Anderson stated that the alternative to the G.C. Foster College track is at the Montego Bay Sports Complex in western Jamaica; however, he describes it as badly deteriorating. He said that he is unsure about sending his team to the Milo Western Relays, hosted at the venue, because the track has, as he says, "basically, done its lifetime".
But Clarendon Central Member of Parliament Mike Henry says that work on the Herb McKenley Health and Lifestyle Stadium, a proposed 20,000-seater complex with a 10-lane running track, will resume soon as part of the Government's Legacy Project for Sports. The project had started a decade ago but stalled because of a lack of funds.
"I've been trying for years to build in Central Clarendon the Herb McKenley Health and Lifestyle Stadium," Henry told The Gleaner. "It will have a Mondo track, which has been committed by the Ministry of Sports, and I'm seeking an astro turf and the involvement of the soccer world on that. It's very well advanced and costed, and I'm hoping to speed up the implementation of that project."
The location selected is in May Pen, close to the Vernam Field Aerodrome redevelopment, which Henry is also planning. He said that the location is in touch with close to 45,000 students within less than an hour.
"From Jago (in St Catherine), you can get to the stadium quicker than you can get to the National Stadium in Kingston," he said. "It's not just because of the highway as the railway will be incorporated. It still runs from Spanish Town and May Pen into Vernam Field. It will have more than one mode of transport overall. Herb McKenley was born in Clarendon, and his intellectual rights, he allowed me to use to develop the overall programme in his honour."
Anderson is aware of the project but does not agree with its location.
"For me, I would not endorse a track in that area," he said. "If a team like Holmwood is to benefit from that track, the area is one where we would not be so encouraged to go. It does not suit us. I wouldn't endorse it there, but anywhere between Clarendon Park and Santa Cruz, or somewhere in Mandeville or Kirkvine, for example, I would endorse a track. They are more accessible and central to all the teams around it."