Sunday, February 10, 2008

Sport facility strategy - one is needed NOW

The selection of any city or country to host a major sporting event is a long and sometimes complicated process. Jamaica has been a beneficiary of hosting major events for over 40 years, dating back to the Commonwealth Games of 1966.

There have been tremendous benefits to the country. However, the argument now is how we can ensure the sustained use of these facilities for economic earnings and the attraction of more sport tourists.

Some national sporting groups have found it difficult to use some of the premier facilities due to high costs, but a plan has to be put in place to ensure that the facilities' costs are covered, plus the earning of a profit.

I have, in recent times, called for an updated list of facilities in the island with its capacity analysis, that is, the number of amenities, fields and stadiums, and its infrastructure, that is, road (transportation) and works.

In a Major Event Attraction Programme study, conducted by Jamaica Trade and Invest (JTI/JAMPRO), the facilities are placed in categories by class with capacities of over 5,000, 2,500 and 1,000 spectators. The study also shows the event potential; whether or not the venue is internationally sanctioned for major conventions, concerts or conferences.

The study highlights 24 facilities to be in classes one to four; being able to host from a high of over 28,000 to a low of 1,000 spectators.

Let us take Sabina Park, for example. It is the first cricket ground to record a triple century - England vs. West Indies in 1930; or the 365 not out by Gary Sobers, plus the remarkable knocks by the indomitable Lawrence Rowe in 1972 (214 and 100 not out on his debut against New Zealand). The rest of the world needs to know that and people should rush to Sabina Park and pay to relive those memories.

Sabina Park was also a venue for track and field championships and can still hold a 400 metres track. The picturesque park recently underwent a major renovation in time for Cricket World Cup 2007. What's next?

The strategy

I know we are afraid of task forces, but I am recommending one to look at the study of the Major Event Attraction Programme and see how Jamaica can benefit from this programme. I know the team will have its experts from the events management portfolio (Jamaica Tourist Board, JTI, Institute of Sport, Independence Park Limited, Sport Development Foundation, Jamaica Olympic Association, etc), but I am suggesting additional personnel from the Jamaica National Heritage Trust and the Tourism Product Development Company to be added to look seriously at marketing the facilities for sustained use.

Seating at Venues for major events

As the World Cup football qualifiers approach, along with international friendly games and major track and field championships, can we have a seating layout of the grandstand at all major ticket venues? This will assist patrons in knowing where they will be seated and how many seats are available in the specific section of choice.

I would hate to have to 'tussle' with anyone who is not sitting in the assigned seat. Let's fix that.

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