Minister of Sports, Stephen Lashley, listening to Neil Weekes of C.O.Williams, while Ambassador Ryan Brathwaite, Permanent Secretary in the Division of Culture and Sports, Ernesta Drakes and Secretary General of the BOA, Erskine Simmons, look on. (C.Pitt/BGIS)??

Government may have to relook its January 2013 deadline for the completion of work at the National Stadium.

Minister of Sports, Stephen Lashley, made this disclosure today after touring the stadium with several officials, including Barbadian athlete, Ambassador Ryan Brathwaite.

Mr. Lashley said the contractors had reported that the recent persistent showers had affected their schedule. "The contractors have also encountered some very hard rock in cutting the perimeters in terms of the drainage and that has also slowed the project a little bit. We will not be in a position to give you a revised completion date, but we will be doing everything possible to ensure that we can accelerate the pace," he promised.

He is optimistic that the rains will abate in the coming weeks. "In any event, if we are impacted further by the weather, we will put contingency plans in place to ensure that the various [athletic] events such as NAPSAC and BSSAC will not be affected…

"The National Sports Council will have to work with its partners to finalise those contingency plans, and once we get that sorted, we will make the announcement. I have already been in discussions with [officials of] the University of the West Indies, as they are about to complete their track.

And, given the kind of collaboration we have with them, there is the possibility of working with the University to use the Ryan Brathwaite Track… Whatever we do, we will ensure those events are held and the youngsters who participate in them will not in any way be disadvantaged," he assured.

Mr. Lashley pointed out that the concrete work on the track would be done before the employees of C.O. Williams went on their annual Christmas break. He explained: "Before you can lay the rubberised surface the concrete has to cure … So, once the concrete work has been done, then that curing period means that no lost time is being encountered."

However, the Minister said he was pleased with the progress of the work so far and surmised that the engineers and contractors were doing all they could to ensure the new track met international standards.

C.O. Williams employees working on the track at the National Stadium. (C.Pitt/BGIS)??

The work at the stadium includes re-laying the track and putting in drainage, as well as refurbishing the bathrooms. The authorities are also looking at changing the lights on the erected towers around the track.

Mr. Lashley stressed that his Ministry’s long term goal was to transform the National Stadium into an ultra-modern facility. "We are in some challenging economic times, but Government’s vision is, once we have the funding, we will be erecting at least a major new stand on the eastern side of the facility. And, once that is done, then these existing stands will have to be dismantled to make way for new stands and a new look stadium.

"So, provided that we can get the necessary funding, that is the direction in which we intend to go. But, we did say that this will have to be done in phases and the most important component has been the track, the drainage, the football field, the lighting and various civil works in terms of bathrooms," he noted.

Ambassador Brathwaite said he was "surprised and amazed" at the progress of the work at the stadium. "I am very pleased about that and the other athletes are going to be very happy that they will have a new track next year…I am looking forward to run on the new track," he stated.


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