Tony Becca, Contributing Editor
Jamaica and sports go together like a horse and carriage, like the sun, sea, and beaches, its lofty mountains and pleasant valleys.
And it started from the days of cricketers like George Headley and Alfred Valentine, track and field stars like Herb McKenley and Arthur Wint, footballers Gillie Heron and Lindy Delapenha, and a boxer like Bunny Grant, through the likes of Lawrence Rowe, Michael McCallum, Don Quarrie, Merlene Ottey, Patricia McDonald, and Theodore Whitmore, to Usain Bolt, Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce, and so on.
It is just recently, however, despite all the talk surrounding Jamaica's greatness in sports, that Jamaica seems about to make use of its quartet of good fortunes - of talented people, lovely sun, sea, and beaches, beautiful mountains, and, despite what some may say, its friendly people.
And they seem to be making use of this treasure chest by attempting to make money from their sporting skill through the vehicle of sports tourism.
Sabina Park, Jarrett Park, and the National Stadium and a few of the old playgrounds which have been around for a long time now, some have disappeared by the wayside, and some new ones taken their places.
None, however, approach the business of sports tourism like Ultimate in Discovery Bay and Manley Horne in Ballards Valley, one is a lovely cricket field attached to a business, and the other, a beautiful cricket field with a pavilion and a football field in the making, and both are available for use by the public, especially by the community around them.
None, however, can match Breds Treasure Beach Sports Park & Academy in Treasure Beach in St Elizabeth, a 19-acre spread which includes a well-laid out cricket field with three pitches, sightscreen, scoreboard, practice pitches, and upstairs pavilion, football field, tennis court, netball court, and basketball court, nestling in the shadow of the magnificent houses in the hills around.
On top of that, a running track is now being built, there are plans to put in three additional tennis courts in order to host top-class tournaments, a boxing gym is being contemplated through connections with former world champion Lloyd Honeyghan, a native of St Elizabeth, and with only one cricket academy in the West Indies, it planned to host a second one in another few years.
There is also a plan to stage an annual high school international cricket tournament, similar to that of the Garry Sobers schools tournament in Barbados and talks are already under way with former England Test cricketer Donovan Malcolm, a native of St Elizabeth.
The land was bought by the Government in 2003 for $41 million, leased to the Treasure Beach Sports Park and Academy for 50 years, and named the Donald Buchanan Sports Tourism Park in memory of the late Donald Buchanan, then minister of government.
The facility is non-profit organisation. It is the brainchild of Jason Henzell, son of Perry Henzell of The Harder They Come fame, and it is run by Jason as chairman and 14 board members, all from the community of Treasure Beach.
"This, sports and tourism, has been a dream of mine for a long time now. I have always felt that sports tourism must be community-based, and when this land became available I jumped at it. I spoke to the minister, he bought the idea, and within a short while, we had it."
To the man who played a little football as a boy, cricket is the main thing behind the park.
"Cricket is somewhat like golf. It is like life, a way of life, and it important in making connections, like business connections. Cricket is a gentlemen's game. Cricket is the main theme of the the park."
A quiet, little man, Jason's eyes roamed the vast expanse of land and sports facilities as he indicated the area with recreation facilities for children and the area which is being prepared for adults' relaxation.
"The goal is that we will be completed by around 2015," Jason said. "By 2015, it will be the best community-based sports park in the Caribbean."
The Treasure Beach Sports Park and Academy already hosts a cricket team - the Treasure Beach Pirates Masters - and a football team, Real Treasure Beach. It has already hosted matches in the Jamaica Premier League cricket competition, and it is home for primary schools football matches.
In its role as a sports tourism entity, the Treasure Beach Sports Park &Tourism Academy has already been in action, hosting the House of Lords and Commons - a team inclusive of nine sitting MPs, among them, the Wanstead Masters, and the Kent Masters, all cricket teams out of England, as well as boxing tournaments between Jamaica and the Cayman Islands, and Jamaica and Canada.
Sports tourism was a dream of the late Desmond Henry, a former director of tourism and a son of St Elizabeth. A few like this one spread around Jamaica and properly and seriously marketed would do wonders for the coffers of Jamaica.