Work underway at the National Stadium. (FP)

A new athletic track should be in place at the National Stadium in time for the start of this year’s primary and secondary schools’ athletic finals.

This disclosure has come from Minister of Sports, Stephen Lashley, who said he had been advised by the National Sports Council (NSC) that, weather permitting, the timeline for completion of the track is the end of February this year.

Mr. Lashley stated: "The contractors worked over the Christmas period to ensure the civil works would be expedited. The asphalt is due to be laid within another week and the covering will be shipped within another two weeks."

The Minister further revealed that the NSC had been in discussion with a major corporate sponsor to replace the lights at the stadium. "We felt that with a new track in place, it would be fitting to improve the lighting to give that additional impact to the stadium. We were extremely happy when a very significant sponsor signalled they were willing to work with us in that regard. Once those discussions are finalised, we are looking to have the lights in place to complement the new track," he said.

He added that the work at the stadium also included upgrades to the football field, improved drainage, maintenance of the metal structures in the stands and improvements to the bathrooms.

The Minister re-emphasised however, that the replacement of the track did not only entail the removal of the previous one and the laying of a new one. "The works included correcting a critical defect with respect to some of the angles of the old track, which meant that times recorded at the stadium could not meet international requirements.

"So, substantial civil works had to be done which meant the removal of the pre-existing concrete and excavation of several areas, to not only improve drainage, but to improve facilities for the shot put, javelin and long jump. The contractors also had to contend with bad weather on some days and they also encountered hard rock during the excavation," he explained.

Pointing out that the track at the stadium had not been replaced since 1999, the Minister described the relaying as "a significant achievement and investment in sports, particularly in difficult economic times".

He promised that Government would not stop at the replacement of the track and the other improvements mentioned. He continued: "It is clear that the stadium, in existence for some 40 years, has to be overhauled and made relevant to our current policy. As a key plank of Government’s sports development programme, I propose to press for the full transformation of the national stadium into an ultra-modern facility. This is an excellent opportunity for joint public/private sector partnership to achieve this."

Mr. Lashley also disclosed that in view of the need to provide more facilities for sports, the NSC was currently engaged in discussions with the current owners of 43 acres of land at Boarded Hall, with a view to planning a new multi-purpose sports facility.


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