UTech: Proposal for Trelawny stadium was misinterpreted
André Lowe, Senior Staff Reporter
Dr Kofi Nkrumah-Young, UTech's vice-president of planning and operations, believes there was "an unfortunate misinterpretation and misunderstanding" as it relates to its proposed usage of the Trelawny Stadium to facilitate a western campus and sports development programme.
The institution's official has challenged the details contained in a release from the Government which, among other things, suggested that its proposal was denied because it couldn't facilitate a $4.5-billion loan request.
UTech had made two submissions to the Government, both of which the release from Minister of Sport, Olivia 'Babsy' Grange, stated were denied on the basis that a loan could not be guaranteed.
Grange, in her release noted: "UTech required US$50 million or J$4.5 billion to establish its western campus ... Please bear in mind that UTech is a Government of Jamaica-aided and supported educational institution. It does not have the money to move forward with its expansion project unless, as UTech had planned, the Government of Jamaica were to guarantee a loan on its behalf.
"The Government cannot guarantee the loan at this time, given our country's financial position and state of indebtedness."
However, Dr Nkrumah-Young pointed out that initially, the institution had considered a national programme which factored in other venues such as the Sligoville Stadium.
That proposal, which did include the loan guarantee amounting to the $4.5 billion that was stated by the Ministry of Sport, was not pursued.
It was replaced by a second proposal that spoke specifically to the Trelawny Stadium being used to drive the establishment of a western campus and sports development programme.
Additionally, he says the initial loan figure was submitted on request from the Planning Institute of Jamaica as a 'wishlist' for submission for international financing, surrounding a programme that they had developed.
"When we were looking at an entire national programme, we had considered a loan," Nkrumah-Young stated, during a telephone conversation with The Gleaner yesterday.
"For Trelawny, the whole matter of a loan did not come into the picture at all. The Trelawny proposal did not involve any loan whatsoever. In fact, it only involved contributions from UTech itself."
Dr Nkrumah-Young noted that UTech, in its subsequent proposal, outlined a phased development over a five-year period which involved an injection of $250 million from its own resources; and only required from the Government its regular subvention to the students who would study at the campus.
"We saw the need to educate more students and we wanted to maximise the results that we have been getting from our athletic programme," said Nkrumah-Young.
"When we combined the two, we realised that the Trelawny Stadium would give us the best opportunity in a very short time ... we would be able to increase access to higher education and increase the sporting success of the country."
The Government also highlighted UTech's plans to refit several skyboxes as classrooms, citing that they were a major selling point for the venue.
In a response, Ethlyn Norton-Coke, UTech's legal counsel and compliance officer, pointed out that the plan to use the skyboxes was only a temporary one as they had expected to set up permanent structures within three years.
"It (UTech) intended to use some of the larger skyboxes as classrooms for a period of no more that three years. At the end of this period those skyboxes would revert to their original use and classrooms would have been constructed," said Norton-Coke in a release.
Meanwhile, Nkrumah-Young believes that the University has a role to play in the development of sports in the country and drew a comparison to the situation in other countries as it relates to universities' role in sports development.
"All over the world, stadia and sporting facilities in general are integral to university programmes so it is time that universities in Jamaica stop concentrating only on the academic side and focus also on the sporting side because the sporting aspect can be a driver for both the nation and the institution," said Nrkumah-Young. "What better place than the Trelawny Stadium that we have sitting there not doing anything."