Montego Bay United FC diversifies offerings
Paul Clarke, Gleaner Writer
Western Bureau:With the recent addition of a go-cart track among its non-football related offerings, there can be no question that Montego Bay United Football Club (MBUFC), which occupies a 25-acre property on the outskirts of Montego Bay, is much more than just a football club.
Following the successful re-branding of the club from Seba United to MBUFC in 2011, the club's owner, businessman Orville Powell, has led a quiet revolution, which has seen the club emerging as the top club in Jamaica, toppling Waterhouse FC in the final.
True to their initial purpose and mission of creating more than just "another" football club, Powell and his management team at MBUFC have been steadily retooling and equipping the club to function as a "holistic family experience", which has been drawing rave reviews from the surrounding communities.
more than just a football club
"We are certainly more than just a football club," said Sandra Christie, the club's chief operations officer and director of administration. "We are a big part of the Montego Bay community, its residents and its roots and we want to begin to make the citizens a major part of our existence."
"We can safely boast that we have one of the best kept football pitch in the country and on top of that, we want to create this one-of-a-kind experience for our patrons. When you come through our gates, the entire family will be able to enjoy a day at Westpow Park."
In order to realise their dream, the club's management is now pursuing significant infrastructural development with the 400 feet go-cart track complete with 10 carts, which has been branded, MoBay Cart World, as the latest attraction.
"That project is almost complete, with the only exception being landscaping," said Christie.
One of the club's most significant additions is its competition-ready 25 metres swimming pool, which is now being utilised by the Montego Bay-based Blue Marlin Swimming Club, the lone swimming club in western Jamaica.
To complement the lush green football field the club uses for its home games in the Red Stripe NPL, there are two other full-size field for training purposes. Additionally, a futsal area, ideal for court games such as netball, tennis, basketball and badminton, was recently created.
The club has also created five quaint cabins on the hillside overlooking the clubhouse, which features living quarters and modern gymnasium and office spaces. The cabins are in high demand by visiting church groups, prompting plans to construct a further seven cabins.
"These are some of the things that have set MBU apart from the other local clubs," said Christie. "We have positioned the club to become a piece of the fabric that is Montego Bay ... we locals and visitors to come here an experience not just our football product but our unique offerings and attractions."
Club owner Powell, whose long-term vision is to have the club breaking into the lucrative sports US$600 billion tourism market, is now looking at helping to develop a comprehensive strategy to get overseas clubs, especially from North America, to hold preseason and summer camps on the island at facilities like the Wespow Park.
"These are projects designed to move football forward in a creative and meaningful way, and at MBU, we are more than just about football, we are about development of our players, our football partners and the communities which we serve," Powell said.
"Key to this is our strategic planning to improve our facility to incorporate other sporting disciplines where applicable and to make sure that in the long term we move beyond talk about sports tourism and into real action," he added.
Interestingly, the Westpow property is fully eco-friendly, boasting a fully solar powered layout making them energy-sufficient.