THE announcement by San Fernando West MP and Attorney General Faris Al-Rawi that Skinner Park will be closed from May 18 for an upgrade has sparked concerns from the sporting organisations which use the facility. The users want to know where they will be accommodated in the interim.
President of the San Fernando Tennis Association Anthony Cook said there has been no consultation with the tennis, football, basketball, netball, cycling, badminton, volleyball organisations, or the people who run fitness programmes in the park.
“No alternative arrangements have been made for the users of the park and we would like someone to spell out what the plans are before its closure,” Cook said yesterday.
Terrence Beepath, a member of the board of Udecott, which has undertaken the refurbishment of Skinner Park to make it a premier facility said before the start of construction, a public consultation will be held and plans and timelines would be on display so all the people who use the facility would know what is going on.
Beepath said Skinner Park is to undergo a transformation that will include the replacement of the pavilion, an underground car park and a food strip for vendors who are now at Cross Crossing.The upgrade is expected to take 18 months to two years.
The park was scheduled to close on March 5, just after Carnival, but Beepath said it was pushed back to May because the city corporation had booked a concert for May 18.
“So we have asked them not to take any more bookings for any function after May 18,” Beepath said.
Al-Rawi announced at the end of a family day at the venue on Easter Monday that the park will be closed on May 18.
Beepath said Udecott is evaluating the tenders which went out earlier. He said it has shortlisted two of them and by the end of May, “We should have a contractor and there should be some kind of sod-turning.”
The refurbishment will be done in two phases, he said.
“The entire pavilion is going to be demolished. That structure is about 100 years old and not structurally solid at all, so we are going to take that down and replace it with a new pavilion holding 6,000 seats.”
He said infrastructure would be fabricated abroad and be brought in for installation.
Included in the plan is a refurbished Mayor’s Box, and several corporate boxes, “so we can generate some revenue, plus a conference facility for the media.”
An upgrade of the playground and cycling track are also on the cards.
“With that kind of accommodation, we will have a problem with parking, so in phase two we are looking to excavate the second-class ground down one level to put an underground car park. It means when you enter from by the Southern Academy for the Performing Arts (SAPA) you would be going into a tunnel.”
He said the grass would be replaced so people can continue to use it.
“We also want to bring the vendors from Cross Crossing here, because they have been causing some congestion on the Cross. The gas-station owner has complained that customers cannot get in or out. We are going to build proper booths along the strip on the second-class ground, so there can be proper parking, washroom facilities and a place where people could sit and eat in an organised way.”
At the turning-on of the lights on Independence Avenue recently, Al-Rawi called Skinner Park San Fernando’s version of the Queen’s Park Savannah. He said the food strip would be the equivalent of what obtains at Ariapita Avenue and Valsayn.
Beepath said the second phase would be based on funding.
“We are now doing the feasibility of how much it would cost to go down a level.”
Asked about Carnival pre-shows which have traditionally taken place at the park, including Calypso Fiesta, Beepath explained, “We are not interfering with the ground itself, so we can probably arrange the space in a way that Carnival could still take place.”