SPORTING enthusiasts in Sangre Grande have for decades complained about the lack of proper facilities available to the community. Pro League football has been non-existent for several years in Sangre Grande as North East Stars have migrated after refusing to play at the Ojoe Road Recreation Ground because of its poor condition. Super League team Matura ReUnited were keen to use that ground as their home ground this season but were blanked by league organisers because it was deemed a “potato patch” and unfit for play.
Less than 200m from the Ojoe Road Recreation Ground, a multi-million dollar multi-purpose indoor sporting facility was built, initially to the delight of the Sangre Grande community and environs. It was officially declared open on August 16, 2016, boasting facilities to accommodate basketball, volleyball, martial arts, table tennis, small goal football, hockey and gymnastics. Over two years later, members of the Sangre Grande community are upset that the facility is turning into a white elephant and is not the multi-purpose centre it was intended to be.
Newsday spoke with several sporting organisers in Sangre Grande who expressed concerns with the high cost of renting the venue, undulating flooring, insufficient demarcation of lines for the various sports, poor placement of bleachers and the red tape involved in getting permission to rent it.
Sport Company Chairman Douglas Camacho revealed yesterday a lot of the issues stem from the poor quality flooring installed by contractor Shanghai Construction Group. He said the problem was noticed since the facility was handed over by the contractor in 2016.
“From the beginning there was a problem,” he acknowledged in a phone interview yesterday.
He said the contractor was informed of the defects but never did the repair works despite promising to do so. The period by which repairs are supposed to be identified and fixed by the contractor has also elapsed. He revealed there are also defects at other sporting facilities built by SCG that have not been addressed by the contractor.
Camacho said in the early stages after the Sangre Grande facility was handed over, the surface was still playable but management realised it would be a risk to host major tournaments there. He said permission was granted to use it on a case-by-case basis to limit the potential for harm to athletes.
“It’s uneven and before someone trips, falls and they say ‘the flooring is uneven they should not let people use it’, they’ve recently in the last couple of weeks closed it until they could repair the flooring,” he said.
He said the Sport Company is currently engaging sporting bodies to make sure the new surface “meets the needs of stakeholders.”
Terry Rondon, chairman of the Sangre Grande Regional Corporation, said he too was aware there was a problem at the facility.
“As far as I know that place was not complete – the flooring was not complete – to the satisfaction of the Sport Company and there is still a matter going on with the contractors. I wish it could open because the people of Sangre Grande are deprived of a top class facility. I hope everything comes through as quick as possible. We have good sportsmen and women in Grande who need a facility like that and it is locked up,” he said.
One sporting organiser from North Eastern Settlement, Sangre Grande said he encountered tremendous difficulties trying to book the indoor court.
“I wanted to do something for the people of Sangre Grande and everyday you passing there and people asking questions. We wanted to use there to have a scrimmage, a sweat or run a programme so we started asking questions to the MP (Glenda Jennings-Smith) and the councillor and nobody really had a fixed answer,” he said.
Another sport enthusiast was stunned to learn he could not rent the court per hour but instead had to pay per day at a hefty cost of over $4,000.
He said, “I know because of that fee, the people of Sangre Grande, if they want to do anything (there) it will be a problem. It is underutilised definitely. It’s only the security that does normally be there. Even if we, the members of the community, want to go there it’s a whole set of red tape. There are hundreds of people who would want to use the venue, but with the price it would be difficult. If it was by the hour it would be easier. I know they want to keep the venue up-to-date and clean but....”
A basketball official who wished to remain anonymous said the material used for the court was not up to standard.
“The engineers did a poor job. The usually use a wooden type of surface for basketball but they put a kind of vinyl material and that is raising with the temperature,” he said.