National Stadium partially accessible

Min. Herman LongsworthBelizean athletes may soon be allowed limited access to certain parts of the Marion Jones Sporting Complex, to be renamed the National Stadium, even though the facility won’t be complete and ready until the end of the year.

Minister of State with responsibility for sports, Hon. Herman Longsworth made the announcement at a consultation for a national sports policy at the Belize Biltmore Plaza Hotel on Wednesday, April 3.

The entire project will cost $30 million, whenever it is finally completed, and the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela has chipped in handsomely, contributing $2 million towards its completion.

For now, Longsworth said the public may be allowed some access to those parts of the facility which have been completed. These include the football pitch, which was completely redone at a cost of $200,000.

The Belize Volleyball Association will also have access to the beach volleyball facility, which also has a smaller set of concrete bleachers beside it.

Athletes preparing for last months 10th Central American Games in Costa Rica, where Belize won only four medals, complained bitterly that they were not allowed to use the state of the art synthetic running track on the new 400 meter oval running track at Marion Jones.

The cycle track has also been re-surfaced and the public can use it for jogging, but Longsworth said it runs too close to the main 6,000-seat grandstand which is still under construction, and  the public will not have access to its entire circuit just yet.

The contractor is responsible for the entire compound, and there is the question of security of construction materials in the area where work is still ongoing, but Longsworth said some money has been budgeted to section off a portion of the compound so the public can use those facilities that are complete.

He also admitted that the contractor had entered into an agreement with a consulting firm, to ensure the work is completed to standard and in a timely manner, but that it would not cost the Government of Belize any more money.

Belizean athletes can hardly wait, since its been well over eight years since Taiwan’s former president Chen Shui-bian’s ground-breaking ceremony with then Prime Minister Said Musa for a $10 million facility at the Marion Jones Sporting Complex in 2004.

Longsworth had been given the job of building the perimeter fence after the change of government in 2008 and he gave the media a preview tour of the facility last September. Work is till ongoing on the concrete structure that will seat 6,000, incorporating rest rooms, four food concession booths and  a media broadcast booth.

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