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Stadium for all

Since Junior Kadooment last weekend some questions have been raised about the wisdom of spending millions of dollars to install a new athletics track at the national stadium, only to subject it to exceptional stress weeks later, even before the island’s athletes have had a chance to really test it.

On the face of it, the exposure of the track to pounding by thousands of little feet for a sustained period, would naturally justify at best, caution, and at worst, complaint, from the athletic community.

Unfortunately for those who are bothered by what happened last weekend, they must be pretty close to having one massive collective heart attack when it is considered that on Monday, if the same limited coverage of the track is employed, it will be subjected to even greater abuse by an even larger number of feet, supporting a lot more weight and adorned by all manner of footwear.

It will most certainly be a Grand Kadooment on the new Mundo athletic track.

Those who are concerned question whether it is necessary to include the National Stadium track in the Grand Kadooment route. Some ask what added value this inclusion brings to the climax of the annual festival.

Again these would seem like reasonable questions, especially when it is considered that in recent years the National Stadium has been witnessing waning number of patrons who want to view the costumed bands from the comfort of the stands — if sitting for four or five hours on exposed flat concrete slabs can be considered comfortable.

But our question is: Does there have automatically to be a conflict between jumping on Kadooment Day through the National Stadium and protecting the athletic track? Can’t we have both?

We believe it comes down to planning and preparation. Is the stadium, with all its limitations, an athletic/sports facility or a multi-purpose national venue that ought to support the requirements of a variety of national interests?

Let’s look ahead into the future. Unless we are lacking in ambition, and perhaps pride, we can’t continue with the National Stadium in its current form. In fact, given its almost pre-historic state — except for the recently rebuilt track — we should all be ashamed in 2013 to invite anyone from anywhere else in the world to attend anything at that facility. Worse yet if the invitee is some dignitary.

The National Stadium has to be expanded, upgraded and made into a modern facility, with VIP suites and boxes, elevators, proper seating, modern telecommunications facilities and so much more, including a raft of changing and support facilities for those artistes and sports persons who will use it — if we are really serious about competing with the world.

And what will we do then, spend tens of millions to achieve it and complain we can’t damage the track?

Look across the United States and see the number of ultra-modern, multi-million dollar sports arenas with expensive floors that in the space of a week are transformed to accommodate all kinds of daredevil acts. How many times per year does something as “damaging” as a monster truck event take place in an NBA or NFL sanctioned facility?

This is done because there are standards applied with every temporary change of use. In today’s world it is probably possible to acquire some kind of covering that would allow a 747 Jumbo jet to land on the stadium track without damaging it.

If the stadium’s mandate is to accommodate athletics, cycling and football, then let’s clear the facility of both Junior and Grand Kadooment. But if we are serious about expanding our offerings, making a name for ourselves in the cultural industries and carving out a niche for the future, then we must be prepared to apply modern thinking to get maximum benefit from our limited resources.

It is all in the planning and preparation. As far as we are concerned, the stadium is a lot more than an athletics track, and it can be used appropriately for all manner of events while still giving every advantage and opportunity to our athletes, who quite frankly have never gotten the support they truly deserve.

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