Barbados must upgrade its sports infrastructure if this country wants to successfully exploit the economic potential of sports.
Minister of Culture, Sports and Youth, Stephen Lashley, made this assertion during the 2013 National Sports Award Ceremony, which was held last Saturday, at the Frank Collymore Hall.
Admitting that this would be a costly endeavour, he noted it was necessary since it would help sportsmen and women to excel.
???It must be undertaken, if we are to exploit the economic dimension of sports and the business and career opportunities it affords to our young people,??? he said.
The Sports Minister added that the upgrading of sports infrastructure was a part of the ???roll out of our National Sports Strategy??? and that the Gymnasium would be transformed into a ???venue of choice for sporting and cultural events???.
Explaining that the rental fees at that venue were largely due to high electricity costs, he disclosed that preliminary work was being done to make the Gymnasium solar powered.
???The reduction in electricity costs will undoubtedly result in lower rental rates. But this is just one aspect of a major refurbishment initiative to be undertaken at the Gymnasium, which, when completed, would attract greater use of the facility for local, regional and international events. It would also place the Gymnasium within the global chain in Barbados??? sports tourism thrust,??? he stated.
In 2013, upgrades to sports infrastructure included the replacement of the athletics track and field as well as improvement of the football field at the National Stadium to meet International Association of Athletics Federation and Federation Internationale de Football Association (FIFA) standards.
Minister Lashley added that his ministry was currently finalising an agreement for the installation of new state-of-the-art lighting towers for the stadium.
Other upgrades, which need to be done to ensure the stadium meets international standards, are the replacement of stands and dressing rooms and the installation of a new velodrome at a site in the vicinity.