Several elected representatives took to the basketball court at the new Greenland Field knowing that even before the first shot went through the nets, they had already scored big by having the field reopened for use following years of anxiety about the rehabilitation project which was marred by protracted delays and budgetary overruns.
During an official ceremony to declare the field open for use yesterday, October 25, Education and Culture Minister with responsibility for Sports, Hon. Myron Walwyn said the field had been closed for almost five years and he is pleased that the Government was able to have it reopened within 11 months of being in office.
The Minister said the reopening signals the completion of phase 1; however, there are other plans for the field.
"Today we complete phase one of this project and I stress phase one, because there are other things that will be done to complete this project and make this facility a first rate facility in the Territory. We anticipate that in the next budget cycle we will be able to add permanent bathrooms, dugouts and a netball court. We realize that we must cater to both male and female spots and I want to assure the women of this community and the wider Virgin Islands, that a netball facility will also be added to this field," he told the gathering.
Hon. Walwyn, who urged residents to take pride in ownership of the field, said the facility will also serve well in helping the young people find positive chances to socialise with their peers and develop skills that one day may take them beyond the field and the shores of the Virgin Islands.
The Greenland Field
Photo Credit: Clifton Skelton/BVI Platinum News
Eighth District Representative, Hon. Marlon Penn during his remarks at the event said the field's closure had brought a lull to sports and social activity in the Seventh and Eighth Districts.
"One of the many aims of today's opening is to rekindle the fire for sports and our sports teams that once burnt bright throughout our community. A fire for sports which burnt bright for our Roots, Atoms and East Invaders softball teams...Our dominant Dreds, East Rockers and Original Stars basketball teams," he said.
The District Representative said the Greenland Field, prior to its closing, contributed significantly to the socioeconomic development of the community and its people.
According to Hon. Penn, the facility will once again contribute to the community's social development by allowing residents to participate and be spectators of the sports they love, while cultivating healthy lifestyles and providing a safe environment to exercise.
He stated that it will also bring a much needed economic boost to the community.
"I have had conversations with small business owners in our community, who spoke about the stimulation their businesses enjoyed when basketball, softball and cricket tournaments were held on these grounds. I want our small business owners to rest assured that it is this Government's intention to use this facility as a major part of our sports tourism efforts and create greater opportunities for small businesses in our community. Greater opportunities for our supermarkets, bakery, merchants, guest houses, restaurants and vendors, with the hosting of local and regional sporting and other events at this facility," he asserted.
According to Hon. Penn, the foreseen benefits from the facility to the East End/Long Look community are many.
"That's why after taking office, I lobbied, nagged and harassed our Premier and Minister of Education every Caucus meeting to get phase 1 of this project funded and completed, because as the Representative for District 8, I understood this facility's significance to our community; this is evident by the presence of so many of you here today."
He added, "So you see, this facility is personal to me for over the past three years. I saw a generation of young people deprived of the opportunities this facility afforded my generation and others before us and I assured the people of this community that the closure of this facility would not continue under my watch. So today, I'm extremely pleased that another generation will have the opportunity to cultivate the next wave of sports stars from amongst our community."
Meanwhile, Hon. Kedrick Pickering, Deputy Premier, Minister for Natural Resources and Labour, and Seventh District Representative who spoke about his childhood days at the field, said the project started during his tenure in 2006, along with former Sports Minister Lloyd Black. He said they worked diligently to get the project to a certain place before the 2007 elections and then former Eighth District Representative, Dancia Penn also worked hard on the project.
"It has been a long time coming; it is sad that it took so long, but we have it now and we have to take care of it. Government cannot do everything," he said.
Hon. Pickering said with the field being closed over the last few years, it was a disservice to the young people in the community.
Premier Hon. Dr. Orlando Smith during his brief remarks urged residents to take care of the field and said someone told him that the field was a lump of dirt, but they took up the mantle and now its open for use.
Project Manager, Allen Wheatley explained the reasons for the many delays, noting that they had to re-design on a number occasions. He also said that the project had to get stamp of approval from several Government agencies, including the Town and Country Planning Department.
"Each time we went through a change, we went through adjustments and adjustments take time," he stated.
In relation to the layout of the field, Wheatley explained that it is a softball field modified to fit cricket, football, athletics and baseball. "So it's not a full fledge softball field".
Governor Boyd McCleary was also present at the event and from observations by BVI Platinum News, there were no Members of the Opposition Virgin Islands Party Government present; however, former Fifth District Representative, Elvis Harrigan was present.
During the ceremony, there were selections from the Willard Wheatley Primary School and the Francis Lettsome Primary School.