|A brand new day?|
Published: Feb 13, 2012
On Saturday, February 25, a brand new day in sports in The Bahamas will begin.
The current stadium at the Queen Elizabeth Sports Centre had its first competition on April 29, 1966 when the first All Bahamas High School Championships was held. Prior to that, competitions were held at the St. Augustine’s field, the St. Joseph’s Field on Boyd Rd., and Fort Charlotte.
The first international competition in track and field held in The Bahamas was the CARIFTA Track and Field Championships in 1976. The 11,000 seat stadium did not have standing room on the closing evening. Subsequent to that the following competitions were held: CARIFTA - 1978, 1981, 1984, 1992 and 2002; Jr. CAC Championships - 1980 and 1988; CAC Age Group - 1987 and 2009; Jr. Pan American Championships - 1984; and Sr. CAC Championships - 1985 and 2005.
In addition to these competitions several groups have staged international competitions at the current stadium. They are: The Bain Town Sporting Club Walter Wisdom Classic; The Pioneers Sporting Club Classic; The 1996 Pre-Olympic Meet; The Nassau Invitational; and The Top Athletes Classic.
Over the years numerous world record holders, Olympic and world champions have participated at the Queen Elizabeth Sports Centre which was renamed the Thomas A. Robinson Track and Field Stadium in 1981.
The new stadium
It was in late 2003 that the government established a committee to look at the design of a new stadium. The Minister of Sports was the Honourable Neville Wisdom. The initial members of the National Stadium Committee were the following: Chairman, Thomas A. Robinson; Mike Sands; Kendal Munnings; Arnold Bain; Harrison Petty; Winston Cooper; Alpheus Finlayson and Michael Foster.
At that time it was agreed that this would be a national stadium which would hold national events including track and field, soccer, and American football. In July of 2009, Prime Minister Hubert Ingraham announced that the new stadium, like the old, would bear the name of Bahamian sports giant Thomas Robinson. Robinson continued to be the chairman of the new group planning the construction of the facility.
The National Sports Authority
Last year a bill was passed in parliament to establish The National Sports Authority. The area we are talking about is the Queen Elizabeth Sports Centre, called the Centre, and the Stadium. This includes the Baillou Hills Sporting Complex. Other sports authorities are to be formed around the country in particular islands or grouping of islands.
The powers of the authority included the construction, alteration, and maintenance of buildings at the Centre, the Stadium and its facilities. They can receive donations and raise funds. The authority also has the ability to borrow funds. For funds in excess of five million dollars, the permission of parliament is necessary.
They are to be permitted to impose charges and fees for the use of the Centre, the Stadium, and its facilities. Most importantly, the authority’s role is to encourage the promotion of sports in The Bahamas. The make-up of the authority includes the president of the Bahamas Olympic Committee, the director of sports, the general manager, the chairman, a deputy chairman, and two members nominated by the federations.
This group is supposed to serve for three years.
Some realities and questions
There are only a few national events that are felt can fill the new Thomas A. Robinson National Stadium. At present, they are the National High School Track and Field Championships and the National ‘Open’ Track and Field Championships. Even with fans up to 5,000, the 15,000-seat stadium would seem empty.
Much more effort has to be made to fill the stadium. The responsibility at that level rests directly on the shoulders of the Bahamas Association of Athletic Associations (BAAA). The Ministry of Education is planning to have more involvement at the high school level. With regards to international events, the chairman Mr. Archer was quoted in The Nassau Guardian as saying: ”Sports will be taken to a new level, with an opportunity for us to create what I call a new business entity. We are not going to look at whether or not you are in a sporting federation, but raise the standards at all levels and actually getting international and regional people to come to The Bahamas for events that will be planned here.
“With that in mind, that means we will have the ability to create an event whereby people will bring their families, you are going to put heads in beds; you are we going to fill plane seats and are going to make sure we create events that people will actually be here for.”
Regarding events held at the stadium, whether they are soccer or track and field, the federations need to provide their sanctions. Also, when we are looking to host IAAF events, they cannot be done without the involvement of the federations. Most federations around the world are not in the position to fund an international event without government support. The IAAF looks for guarantees from the government.
The chairman speaks about “heads in beds”, this needs to be factored in when federations present bids. What additional input the authority will have on the hosting of international events remains to be seen. There is talk about the use of international marketers to promote the stadium. This will not be for free. When will the facility be ready for use?
Much is going on at the facility and its environs now. From the outside looking in it seems that it will be a while before it is ready. Will it be ready for the National High School Track and Field Championships next month and the Olympic Trials in June?
The powers that be are encouraged to ensure that those persons who have been in the trenches of sports in the country, especially track and field and soccer, be well represented at the opening. We hope that February 25 will be the beginning of a brand new day!