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HomeNewsCaribbean NewsGeorge Odlum National Stadium to be restored, says PM Pierre

George Odlum National Stadium to be restored, says PM Pierre

  • “The commencement of preparatory works on the GONS is contingent on the relocation of the operations of the St Jude Hospital to its original site in Augier, Vieux-Fort.” ~ OPM

By Caribbean News Global contributor

VIEUX-FORT, St Lucia – The government of Saint Lucia has prioritized the restoration and rehabilitation of George Odlum National Stadium(GONS) in Vieux-Fort, currently used as St Jude Hospital, per the Office of the Prime Minister (OPM), press release, April 5, 2024. The temporary relocation of St Jude Hospital was made permanent following a fire and re-construction at the original St Jude Hospital (September 9, 2009) in Augier, Vieux–Fort.

Restored and Rehabilitated (GONS)

The OPM last Friday specified that GONS in Vieux-Fort is earmarked for a transformational rehabilitation process under the Philip J. Pierre-led administration, stating:

“For too long, our athletes have been disadvantaged and deprived of the full use of the GONS. In 2023, the prime minister took deliberate action to initiate the long-delayed rehabilitation works he successfully negotiated a US$75M loan from the Saudi Fund for Development. The loan will finance construction and rehabilitation works on the St Jude Hospital Reconstruction Project (SJHRP) and the GONS.”

The construal defines that the original St Jude Hospital is in a phase of transition from GONS, however, the construction cost (budget) and the scheduled commissioning of the facility are not yet available.

Understanding the ongoing construction at St Jude Hospital and progress reports, of course, is more complicated. Presumptive progress reports are sparse and warrants value for money, indifferent to what obtains in residential construction, commercial construction, industrial construction, and infrastructure construction.

The government has been clear that it will “restore the GONS and return it to [our] athletes and footballers,” saying – “ the commencement of preparatory works on the GONS is contingent on the relocation of the operations of the St Jude Hospital to its original site in Augier, Vieux-Fort.”

The advisory issued by OPM last Friday follows the estimates of expenditure and revenue 2024-2025 reporting for 2023/24 “direct cost of health care at $188.7 million.”

The estimated (2024/25) schedule for St Jude Hospital Reconstruction Project is at $67.2M registered at No. 4 in the upcoming financial year, among the plans to focus on.

The financial year also mentions “grant revenue – government of Saudi Arabia – $5.0M.” On the financing side, “some of the external borrowing already identified and sourced include, government of Saudi Arabia – $30.4 million.”

Saudi Fund for Development signs US$75M loan agreement in St Lucia to reconstruct and rehabilitate St Jude hospital

“Preparatory work on the GONS is expected to commence in the 2024/25 fiscal year,” the OPM stated. “The prime minister has committed $2.5 million from the 2024/25 estimates of revenue and expenditure for stadium design, supervision services and site preparation works.”

Sports development

The Semi-Professional Football League plans for the renovation of playing facilities islandwide and preparation for World Cup Cricket matches to be played in Saint Lucia later this year evidence of the 2024/2025 budget.

There is also the narrative concerning government administration of sports over decades of policy failures, commercial transactions, and the influence of scholarships.

“A discourse is certainly warranted,” said a source close to the administration. “The Semi-Professional Football League launched at the Mindoo Phillip Park on Sunday, March 10, 2024, draws deeper issues with sports management, the promise of employment, political influence and potential payout.”

The government of Saint Lucia press release dated March 20, 2024, said:

“Minister of Sports, Kenson Casmir, is pleased that the youth are engaging in meaningful activity. However, he said the League is a lot more than sports. […]. We already have proposals coming through for sponsorship, so we will be able to compensate footballers as the event grows and becomes even more popular.” The minister further stated: “The government of Saint Lucia aims to eventually do the same for other sporting disciplines.”

$80 Million committed to enhancing sporting infrastructure

Parliament authorized the minister of finance to guarantee an amount of XCD80,000,000.00 (the loan) from the 1st National Bank Saint Lucia Limited (the Bank) to the National Lotteries Authority to assist with the financing of a youth and sports infrastructure programme.

“The National Lotteries Authority (NLA) will oversee the execution of rehabilitation works on several sporting facilities throughout Saint Lucia. The Mindoo Phillip Park, Marchand Grounds, Gros-Islet playing field and Daren Sammy Cricket Grounds will receive immediate attention to expedite Saint Lucia’s preparations to host group stage matches in the upcoming ICC Men’s T-20I Cricket World Cup tournament in June 2024. Also, the funds will be invested in targeted youth programmes facilitated by key government agencies and NGOs.”

Saudi Fund for Development

The OPM has accelerated analysis in the 2024/2025 estimates to confirm that:

“The government will draw down from the loan from the Saudi Fund for Development to commence the subsequent construction phases on the GONS upon completion of the relevant preparatory works and after securing the necessary approvals from the relevant authorities.”

The government’s sporting perspective bristled with the influence of “the importance of managing state assets,” urged “the public to rest assured our athletes can look forward to benefitting from the use of a fully restored and first-class sporting facility.”

With political futures to worry about, national security and job creation to combat unemployment and economic growth, it is credible that the OPM is ostensibly guided by political and economic circumstances.

Navigating this course, “Saint Lucia will regain the capacity to host regional and international sporting competitions in the GONS,” the OPM proposes.

Meanwhile, commenters presented the following arguments:

The Honorable Lucian Highgrade April 6, 2024, At 11:56 am writes in part:

“Great! Good news, now we can host The Carifta Games like Grenada just did, we can finally see our Sprint Queen and the hidden Usain Bolt’s on home turf for a change. Saint Lucia’s track and field dominance has been stifled for too long. This will be the best thing happening for our athletes because we have so much talent but they lack the facilities to give them the opportunity to showcase themselves. Sports for many will be the opportunity they have been waiting for to uplift themselves out of poverty. […].”

Wilson Jn Baptiste  Saturday, April 6, 2024, at 07:30 PM explained:

“The development of Vieux Fort has always presented challenges to governments of Saint Lucia. However, today, it is worse than it has ever been because there is no strategy or supply chain operations management plan in place. A strategy is an integrated set of choices. […]. There is no reason why the St Jude Hospital and the George Odlum National Stadium (GONS), should be mentioned in the same sentence at the same time … unless there are things we do not know about.”

Conclusion on GONS

The Pierre administration has multiple options to finance and complete the GONS in the 2024/2025 fiscal year.

  • The prime minister has committed $2.5 million from the 2024/25 estimates of revenue and expenditure for stadium design, supervision services and site preparation works;
  • $80 Million committed to enhancing sporting infrastructure – “Also, the funds will be invested in targeted youth programmes facilitated by key government agencies and NGOs.”
  • The Saudi Fund for Development has committed EC$200 million to the government of Saint Lucia to finance the Saint Jude Hospital Reconstruction project and rehabilitate the George Odlum National Stadium (GONS);
  • Grant revenue – government of Saudi Arabia – $5.0M.” On the financing side, “some of the external borrowing already identified and sourced include, government of Saudi Arabia – $30.4 million.”

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