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#498333 - 11/25/14 09:58 AM Marion Jones Sports Complex open soon
Marty Offline

Marion Jones Sports Complex open soon, says Sports Minister

Earlier this year, this newspaper chronicled the setbacks that have befallen successive governments as they have attempted to complete a comprehensive facelift of the Marion Jones Sports Complex, one of the country’s most prominent sporting facilities, and today, five years after the last groundbreaking ceremony for the facility was held, current Minister of State in the Ministry of Education, Youth and Sports, Hon. Herman Longsworth, announced that the protracted refurbishments on the stadium should be completed by the end of this month.

If works go as planned, the completion of the facility will be welcomed news for both athletes and sports enthusiasts, especially in the population center, Belize City, and when the media caught up with Longsworth at an unrelated event today, he indicated that the long awaited conclusion of the upgrades on what had become a project that was plagued by holdups, is right around the corner.

He said, “Marion Jones [Sports Complex] is almost ready to be opened. We were hoping for the end of November to have it completed sufficiently [so] that we can actually open it to the public. I believe we will meet that deadline by, give or take, a few days.”

Longsworth mentioned that a decision was made, based upon his insistence, that a VIP section in the seating area and offices for the National Sports Council would not be included in the works, and that instead, all the resources would be invested in the areas to be utilized by athletes and members of the public.

“We will have all the athletes’ areas and public areas complete when we launch. We will not have the VIP areas; VIP areas can come later, as far as I’m concerned. What matters to me is that the public has use of that facility, and that the athletes have use of the facility”, he emphasized.

Ground was broken for the $13 million project in August of 2009, and at the time it was promised that the project would be completed in 18 months, but soon those months turned into years, and now, almost four years since the proposed finish date, there is finally a ray of hope in relation to the long anticipated opening of the essential sporting complex.

Another popular Belize City sporting venue, albeit strictly for football fans, which is in the midst of an extended rehabilitation phase is the MCC Grounds which, for many decades, has been the primary football venue in the Old Capital.

Those works, which began in June of this year, were prompted – in part – by damages resulting from non-sporting events that were held at the venue, and were supposed to have been completed by the beginning of August 2014, in time for the start of the Premier League of Belize (PLB) Belikin Cup Opening Season semi-pro football tournament; however, that date was later deferred to December 2014, reportedly due to hitches involving the surface of the football pitch.

Minister Longsworth, who said that he had visited the MCC Grounds yesterday, Thursday, today informed the media that the upgrade is coming along quite well, and that it is just taking longer than expected because of the challenges encountered in ensuring a complete grass covering of the field.

“The grass is coming along quite well, we still have patches that have not come the way we want them to come, but the grounds team is out there working diligently every single day to try to promote the growth of the grass there. We are in the process now of finishing up the foundations for the light posts that are going to be erected. Just yesterday evening, I saw the design for the electrical [works], and so we have that ready [and] because all the electrical [works] will go underground, we should be proceeding with those by next week, or as soon as the foundations are properly cured – the concrete piles and pile caps – as soon as those are properly cured, we will erect the columns, which have already been built in Spanish Lookout and awaiting erection. It is simply the groundwork that is kinda keeping us back”, Longsworth asserted.

He noted that although their initial intentions were to open the MCC Grounds by early December, they have pushed back that deadline to late December for good measure.

In the meanwhile, FC Belize, the solitary Belize City semi-pro football franchise, has had to play its home games in Orange Walk Town, which has certainly taken a toll on the beleaguered team which, we understand, has been hemorrhaging financially and unable to secure proper sponsorship following the death of former owner, Lionel Welch, earlier this year.


#503221 - 04/10/15 12:07 PM Re: Marion Jones Sports Complex open soon [Re: Marty]
Marty Offline

Marion Jones Sports Complex opened, but not quite completed

After a series of delays and on-and-off construction that spanned several years, a “soft” opening of the Marion Jones Sports Complex was held today by present Minister of State in the Ministry of Education, Youth and Sports, Hon. Herman Longsworth.

Since the last groundbreaking ceremony for the stadium in August 2009, the projected launch of the state-of-the-art facility had been put off multiple times.

Still, the high-caliber multi-purpose sports complex is nearing completion, even if it is only in parts. At this point, the contract for the bleachers and accompanying facilities is complete, and the sports complex is in a usable state.

During a media tour of the long-awaited stadium this afternoon, Longsworth elaborated on the progress of the project and its current stage.

He said, “The contract for this complex is complete. When it was tendered, the cost came in much higher than the government had budgeted for, and so it was divided into 2 phases.

Government entered into a contract with the contractor to complete what they could have afforded with the monies they had. So far as that contract is concerned, I would say that we are 98% complete. The balance of the building will depend on additional funding coming from government, so I don’t know what will happen to that.”

“If you want me to speak to the entire complex, I would say it is 80% complete. The contract was specifically for this building and the parking area. We have not yet done anything with the parking, but the building is substantially complete except for what are to become the Sports Council offices on the 3rd level, and what is to be the press boxes and the VIP boxes on the 5th level”, he noted.

“We’re also still working, but I expect those works to be completed on the ground level, which is the athletes’ locker rooms and showers etc. They’re not complete as yet, but we’re pretty close now to having them completed”, he further said.

According to Longsworth, all the basic amenities such as bathrooms, concession areas, locker rooms, and seating are ready for public use, and he noted that while at this phase, the facility will only be able to accommodate track and field, football, cycling and beach volleyball, but when the indoor facility is completed, the stadium will be able to also host basketball, volleyball, boxing, karate and table tennis.

He added that construction on the indoor facility should start by the middle of this year, courtesy of an expected $10 million grant from the Mexican government.

As was mentioned, the almost $16 million building is also retrofitted with press boxes, office spaces for the National Sports Council, ticket booths, and a VIP lounge that is nearing completion.

While he concurred that works on the stadium have taken longer than expected, Longsworth pointed out that the financing for the project came out of the Government’s coffers, and he assured that the expanded facility is “specifically geared towards the athletes and the public to view sports.”

The Sports Minister also conceded that maintenance – which is vital to the upkeep of the sports complex – will be very expensive, and therefore, the possibility of turning over that responsibility to a private company is being considered.

Even though the finishing touches are still being put on this segment of the project, we understand the facility will be open to athletes who need it to train for their different sporting disciplines.

Longsworth told us that the general public will be allowed to use certain parts of the facility, but for a fee, which will be used to help cover the maintenance costs.

He also stated that there will be an official opening of the Marion Jones as soon as all the works are properly completed.


#506292 - 07/30/15 04:12 PM Re: Marion Jones Sports Complex open soon [Re: Marty]
Marty Offline

Mexico and Belize announce the kickoff of the construction of a multi-purpose sport facility at the “Marion Jones” Sport Complex

The Secretary of Foreign Affairs of Mexico, Jose Antonio-Meade and the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Belize, the Hon. Wilfred Elrington held a meeting in Mexico City to reiterate the bonds of cooperation and friendship between the two countries. As part of the historic visit of Minister Elrington to Mexico, the two ministers along with the Hon. Herman Longsworth, Minister of State in the Ministry of Education, Youth and Sports with direct responsibilities for youth and sports announced the kickoff of the construction of the Multipurpose Sport Facility at the “Marion Jones” Sports Complex.

This project is fostered by the Ministry of Education, Youth and Sports of Belize with the Hon. Herman Longsworth at the helm of the project and will be financed with funds through the Infrastructure Fund for Mesoamerican and Caribbean countries (Yucatan Fund).

This particular project is a direct response to a request from the Government of Belize, Prime Minister and Minister of Finance the Hon. Dean Barrow to the Minister of Finance of the Government of Mexico, as per letter dated 24 August, 2014. The launch of this project represents for Mexico the opportunity to contribute to the welfare of Belizean youth through the promotion of social inclusion, the prevention of violence and the restoration of the social fabric. Additionally, the multi-purpose sport facility is an expression of the coordinated efforts of Mexico and Belize to bolster social development and create opportunities for growth, as well as to strengthen the bonds of cooperation and deepen bilateral relations between the two countries.

This project involves the design and construction of a multi-purpose sport facility and the installation of lighting on the existing football field. It will be named by Mexico, in appreciation for the support of the Mexican Government.

The Government of Belize and the Government of Mexico, through the Mexican Agency for International Development Cooperation (AMEXCID), partner on initiatives to increase shared cooperation that boosts growth and raises the prosperity and welfare of both its population.

The Guardian

#508693 - 10/30/15 06:01 AM Re: Marion Jones Sports Complex open soon [Re: Marty]
Marty Offline

Mexico Makes Marion Jones Moves

The launch of a Multipurpose Sports Facility named Mexico took place this afternoon at the Marion Jones Sports Complex. Ten million dollars has been granted by the government of Mexico for a multipurpose sports facility to be built in what used to be the parking lot of Marion Jones. The grant has the added bonus of installing lighting in the existing soccer field. Minister of State in the Ministry of Sports explained:

The grant was approved last April, along with 2 other projects in Jamaica and Saint Lucia by the Technical Committee of the Infrastructure Fund for Mesoamerican and Caribbean Countries in Mexico City.

Channel 7

Outgoing Sports Minister Beats His Chest Over Incomplete Stadium

The Marion Jones Sporting Complex – even saying it leaves a sour taste in your mouth. The state-of-the-art dream has been thrown about for years…under construction for about seven of those years, but it’s still not done. It’s the proverbial white elephant for this administration…many millions of dollars pumped into a sporting facility which really only features a running track and a football field which isn’t ready. It’s hard to imagine somebody being proud of what seems to be a monument to wasteful spending and certainly mismanagement, but Longsworth, after running down the figures for us, was proud to take ownership.

Herman Longsworth, Minister of State, Ministry of Sports

“The fence was constructed, including what was considered preparatory works for the cycle track and for the football field…was two million two hundred and ninety-three thousand dollars four hundred and one and sixty-seven cents. The running track and spectator bleachers, which was phase two of the project—the fence was phase one. Phase two of the project which was the running track and the small bleachers on the other side, where the running track is, was constructed for two million eight hundred and twenty-nine thousand two hundred and eighteen dollars and fifteen cents. This facility here, inclusive of everything that has been spent to date, which is considered…oh sorry. The track surfacing is phase three-C as it was—I’m not seeing. Three; hot mix and asphalt surfacing of the cycle track, which was phase three-B, was five hundred and sixteen thousand one hundred and fifty ninety-six. The track surfacing, which is the actual synthetic surfacing on the running track was four hundred and sixteen thousand five hundred and ten dollars and seventy-eight cents. And the grandstand facilities is seventeen million six hundred sixty-eight thousand six hundred and fifty-four dollars and forty-nine cents to date.”

Herman Longsworth

Mike Rudon

“So in a sporting facility, the grandstand basically cost more than everything else that is there?”

Herman Longsworth

“But you must understand we call it the grandstand facility, but it houses all the seating, all the changing rooms, all the medical facilities—it is to house all those. It has all the concession areas; it has the VIP, the press booth…it has everything that should be a part of a grandstand facility. If you look internationally, you would see that they have more seating than we have. So you will see one major area and then you see other seating. This is the major area that you would have.”

Mike Rudon

“Sir as you prepare to leave office very shortly, will you be proud of what has been accomplished here at the Marion Jones?”

Herman Longsworth

“I’m extremely proud; I’m extremely proud. Let’s put it into perspective. Several years ago, there was a Minister of Sports, a Prime Minister actually; who came out here with the Taiwanese Ambassador and kicked a football and promised all sorts of things. What came of that? Before we started this facility, what was here? Tell me? I am indeed extremely proud of what we have here today. The money was properly spent and it is here for everybody to see and everybody to enjoy down the road. So I am proud; of course I am.”

Mike Rudon

“Sir, but walking the ground, this place is a mess.”

Herman Longsworth

“The facility and I told…I just told you that I had a dream for this place. I had a dream, but there was not the money to do it. But I had the vision to try to put together a master plan that anybody who comes behind me can continue to build on. That is what this is about. I never told you that I would make all of this property into gold.”

Mexican Government Funds Multi-purpose Sports Building at Marion Jones

Carlos Quesnel

Today, the media was called out to the launch of a new multi-purpose sports building to be located at the Marion Jones Sporting Complex in Belize City. It will be funded totally by the government of Mexico, and the concept was cemented in 2012 when both countries agreed on the plan. The new building catering to a variety of disciplines will augment the football field and running track currently at the complex.

Carlos Quesnel, Mexican Ambassador to Belize

“This project involves not only the design and construction of a multipurpose sports facility, but also the installation of lighting in the existing soccer field. It will be named Mexico because of Belize’s appreciation of the support of the Mexican government. Thank you very much honourable Minister Faber and Minister Longsworth for this kind gesture. The government of Belize and Mexico, through the Mexican Agency for International Development Cooperation take actions to increase joint collaboration that boost growth and raise the prosperity and welfare of the Belizean population. This effort will also allow the possibility of groups of all ages to have access to practicing these sports with benefits for the wider population of this country.”

Herman Longsworth

Herman Longsworth, Minister of State, Ministry of Sports

“The intention is to build a building that shall facilitate volleyball and basketball primarily. But the intention is also to assist in those sports—boxing, karate, table tennis; that sort of thing—to also have a place that they can compete. They may not be able to use it for practice purposes, but at least they could have a proper place that they can have their competitions. The primary purpose is for volleyball and basketball. The intention was initially for volleyball and I said no, we can’t have only volleyball; we must ensure that all those who can utilize the building, utilizes it. I know that this is political season and I know that there are going to be quite a bit of questions and comments coming from the media. I want you to appreciate that we have a master plan that was developed, primarily after my coming on board, for this facility; for the entire facility. It is a dream. It is not something that we have the money to immediately implement. So I am extremely thankful to the Mexican government for having agreed to participate in this process and to partner with us.”

Channel 5

#508696 - 10/30/15 06:28 AM Re: Marion Jones Sports Complex open soon [Re: Marty]
Katie Valk Offline
8 yrs later.. still a mess.
Belize based travel specialist

#511123 - 01/28/16 05:02 AM Re: Marion Jones Sports Complex open soon [Re: Marty]
Marty Offline

Hon. Aragon Needs 2.5 M USD To Complete the Mother Of All White Elephants

And while we had Aragon we asked him about the Marion Jones sporting complex – which is one of those facilities managed by the Sports Council. Before the break we called it the mother of all white elephants – not so much because so much money has been wasted on it – fat is, no one knows for sure how many millions have been spent…but it’s the mother of all because it was first launched in 2005 with 5 million US dollars from the Taiwanese, and 11 years, and many PUDP millions later, Marion Jones is still not usable! It is a public monument to incompetence, and who knows what else. But new minister Elodio Aragon says he can fix it – he just needs 5 million US more:…

Hon. Elodio Aragon - Minister of State, Youth and Sports

"And I will tell you Marion Jones stadium needs to be finished and we are working on that to get it finished. I am hoping as soon as possible we will get that going. Now in terms of Marion Jones, one of the things I had a meeting with the supervising element of the Marion Jones Stadium and I'll tell you that I've learned a lot in terms of how Marion Jones Stadium came about, what was the plan and how monies were being allocated to it. Understanding that and where we are in terms of the work has given me a great insight in knowing how we will now move forward in terms of getting it done. The priority for me is getting Marion Jones Stadium up and finished."

Jules Vasquez

"Are you all prepared to come to terms with the fact that the Marion Jones was not ever built or ever designed or thought of the end users, it's always been for who could get this contract. I regret to say this and it's not your fault but it's always been seen as an industry on to itself. Are you all picturing now the end user who can say, well we can get kids using this and develop a track and field programme based on X,Y and Z?"

Hon. Elodio Aragon - Minister of State, Youth and Sports

"Well Jules if you look at the investment that has been done on Marion Jones, a lot of it is for our national sports, to host national sporting events. We have rubberized track and field that is there. We have the run around for the cyclist as well that needs to be done and there is still work that needs to be done at Marion Jones and we won't run away from that. A rough estimate would put it at around 2.5 Million US dollars that needs to be spent and invested there to get the Marion Jones finished intact and the keys are handed over. Now to get to that, that is where the problem lies. "

And while Aragon says he has spoken with the Prime Minister and is seeking external funding for that 5 million Belize dollars more, he stressed that the 5 million US which the Mexicans put into a project management group called UNOPS will be untouched because that is for another facility outside Marion Jones, but on the same compound:..

Hon. Elodio Aragon - Minister of State, Youth and Sports

"UNUPS is an organisation that will oversee the investment of the 5 million US dollars for the indoor facilities that is being built by the Mexicans. In no way will that money will be used on the Marion Jones Stadium itself; building that is there right now, that money has been slated for the indoor facilities that will be built right beside the Marion Jones within the same complex."

Channel 7

#512107 - 03/03/16 05:20 AM Re: Marion Jones Sports Complex open soon [Re: Marty]
Marty Offline

At Long Last Marion Jones is Opened to the Public!!

The Marion Jones Sporting Complex is getting some attention. Forgive us if we seem unduly excited about it, but it’s gotten to the point where anything positive done to enhance the facility is great news. Perhaps we should report right off that the gates of the stadium have been thrown open for residents to use. There’s not much that can be used, really…just the same old cycling and running track, but for better or worse the facility is open. Today we found inmates of the Belize Central Prison working along with staff from the National Sports Council to improve the aesthetics and the security.

Ritchel Dominguez, National Sports Director

“We are trying to get all our facilities up and running and getting them into positions where people can start using them again. We have opened the gates to the Marion Jones so that people can run. But looking at it, it would have been a little unsafe to have the bush so high and people running on the track so that you don’t know if someone left from this area if they’d get back. Although we have the Police on board who visit here very often, but you never know, and we want to keep it clean so that people can feel safe using the Marion Jones again as a running track in the morning and the evening.”


“In terms of the Marion Jones I know it’s a bit unfair to you because it’s early days for you at the Sports Council. What are the plans for the Marion Jones?”

Ritchel Dominguez

Ritchel Dominguez

“I don’t want to set the bar too high and I don’t want you to come back at me. But Marion Jones is looking up and Marion Jones is right where it is supposed to be. And sometime in the near future it will be completed. I can basically say that we are working on the building slowly and we are trying to get it finished, and then we’ll invite the media over when we move our office on this side of town.”

Channel 5

…FIFA-certified Football Pitch at Marion Jones in the Pipelines

And there’s more good news. In 2015 just days before elections there was a ceremony to announce that the Mexican government was pumping five million dollars into the facility. That hasn’t exactly happened yet, but there is some movement where the allegedly FIFA-certified football pitch is concerned. National Sports Director Ritchel Dominguez told us today that in a matter of months, that pitch should be ready for international games.

Ritchel Dominguez, National Sports Director

“The Mexicans are on board to basically facilitate us with the light for this field, and Mr. Chanona has also come on board to deal with the grass planting and getting it up to standard. You see what happens is that most of the time we say that the fields are not up to standard but I feel that it is maintenance in keeping the field after it has been planted is what we need in Belize. We need to understand that it’s not planting it and it’s done. We need to maintain it to keep these fields in the proper condition that they’re supposed to be. My thing is to get people trained in handling the grass planting on these fields…getting members of staff trained in maintenance of the grass in the fields so that we can keep them for a long time.”


“I understand that there is also a plan to install a smaller field where persons from the public can come in and play.”

Ritchel Dominguez

“Yes! What happened is that we’re going to put a smaller field next to the running track so that people coming in the evening who want to play a five a side or just play ball for fun or just to exercise can use that field. We don’t want them on the field that is the professional field, but these people still need to use a field. So we’re going to make that one a bit smaller so that they can use it when they’re here.”


“Is it possible for you to give me a realistic timeframe? I’m not asking you to tell me two weeks, three weeks, four weeks, but a realistic timeframe of when people can expect that to be done?”

Ritchel Dominguez

“We are looking at it and I am trying to get the goalposts built and then after that we are going to start fixing the field. It should be somewhere in the next three to four months.”

Channel 5

#512952 - 04/09/16 06:19 AM Re: Marion Jones Sports Complex open soon [Re: Marty]
Marty Offline

Marion Jones, Still Not Ready

The launch of the CODICADER 2016 Belize took place at the Marion Jones Stadium. Of course, Marion Jones still isn't finished - and, after countless millions spent, it stands mostly as a well-fenced monument to "PUDP" indifference to sports. So what's next for Marion Jones Stadium? Today we asked Minister of State Aragon about it:.

Hon. Elodio Aragon, Minister of State in the Ministry of Sports
"Right now we are having an investment of 5 million U.S. dollars from Mexico that has contributed to the building of the indoor facility. That is well under way in terms of the preparation for building, etc. so within the next 2 years or less we should see that building up completely finished. That will be a big compliment to the Marion Jones and hopefully by then we would have finished this building in terms of the other facilities. If you look at the floors, especially the floors that catered towards the people who visited the stadium, it's completed. areas that need to be completed is in terms of what people do not see, which is the place upstairs for the VIP and the media and downstairs that deals with the athletes. Those are areas that still are somewhat completed but need much more work in terms of putting in certain things that are requirements by FIFA, etc. UNOPS will be providing the lighting for us for the field, so we'll be up to standard with that and likewise. The field is playable but there's need to work because we want to take it to the next level that will be international standard. So there's work to be done. I want to see Marion Jones a beacon for sports in terms of the national level. Because we have the Marion Jones is situated here in Belize City with the highest population of this country that is concentrated and we want to see Marion Jones a place where we have all of our main national sports to be held here, because we have the population here. This could be a successful stadium."

Channel 7

Drone footage of Marion Jones Sports Complex in Belize City

#518265 - 10/13/16 01:22 PM Re: Marion Jones Sports Complex open soon [Re: Marty]
Marty Offline
Lights and indoor facility for Marion Jones Sporting Complex

The Ministry of Youth, Sports and Culture has announced the signing of the contract for the lighting of the Marion Jones Sporting Complex project. The signing of the contract is between United Nations Office on Projects (UNOPs) and Maheias Construction for the installation of FFB- standard lights on the field of the Marion Jones Sporting Complex.

This signing takes place at 10 a.m. Thursday, October 13th at the Marion Jones Complex. In addition, the Ministry of Sports will reveal the design of the indoor basketball and volleyball facility that will be constructed next to the Marion Jones Grandstand. Bids will go out for that contract shortly and construction is expected to begin by early January, during the dry season.

#518276 - 10/14/16 06:05 AM Re: Marion Jones Sports Complex open soon [Re: Marty]
Marty Offline

Plans For New Stadium Unveiled

And today the Ministry of Sports also unveiled the plans for the real centerpiece of the Mexican funded project, which is a nine million dollar multipurpose volleyball and basketball facility – which will be placed on the same Marion Jones grounds, to the east of the main structure.  It's a major sports complex, and this is also being administered by UNOPS – and is slated for completion in February 2018.  Sharp outlined the basic details:…

Allan Sharp - Steering Committee Member
"The basketball and volleyball facility which will be built just to the north of here which will have 4 training courts which can be converted to one main court with 2 side courts and the facility will be able to hold 1500 people but I think the main part of the project that government is trying to push is that sport needs facilities."

Hon. Elodio Aragon Jr. - Minister of State, Youth, Sports, Culture
"The indoor facility will have 4 courts for practice purposes with one main court to be used for tournaments. It has a media room and training rooms as well as rooms for medical attention, a gymnasium and of course multiple restroom facilities. This space will seat an audience of 1500 person and the design includes proper ventilation and lighting and is wheelchair accessible. We are about to embark on sending our out tenders for the construction of this indoor sporting facility. As with the tendering and bidding process for the lighting component this component of construction for the indoor facility will be managed by UNOPS."

Robert Woisky - UNOPS Project Manager, Belize
"For the construction is a bigger project. We don't know how many companies here have the capacity and the finance requirements for the construction. Also we are also spreading this opportunity to the Mexico market. We are trying to spread more in the Yucatan and Quintana Roo provenience because first to get a better price, a final cost."

Because the project is funded by the Mexicans, UNOPS is obliged to invite bids from Mexico and Belize.  IT will go to tender this month, and work on the project should start in January.

Lights For Marion Jones Complex

And switching to now to another kind of transparency in public life, the media was called today to witness the signing of a contract for the installation of lights on the football field at the Marion Jones Sporting Complex.  Now, you mightn't even know that there is a field at the stadium – but it's there, alright, just buried under some dense overgrowth.  Well, now as part of the ongoing plan to revive that moribund facility, the field is being resurrected. And while the signing of a contract to put up four lights wouldn't normally draw national media attention – this one did because it's the first contract awarded under an agreement with the Mexican Government.  The Mexicans gave Belize a grant of 5 million US dollars for a sports facility at Marion Jones.  What's novel about the grant is that it is being administered through an organization called UNOPS, the United Nations Office For Project Services.  That means no hanky-panky politics in the awarding of the contracts; this money is administered by a UN Agency. Maheia's construction won the 450 thousand dollar contract to construct what are called "Class Two lights" and they signed the contract today.  Here's more:…

Hon. Elodio Aragon Jr. - Minister of State, Youth, Sports, Culture
"Today we are witnessing the signing for the contract for the lighting of the football field at the Marion Jones stadium. This lighting will meet FIFA standards therefore allowing for evening and night football tournaments to be held here at the Marion Jones sporting complex. Our goal is to get the existing infrastructure to be utilised for sporting activities and bring back to this location the love sport and make continue to make this our national stadium."

Allan Sharp - Steering Committee Member
"Through a bidding process which UNOPS handles the Mehia group won that bid to put up the lights and we should soon be started and we have a 4 month period in which to have the lights installed and ready; which means that the sports council will be working hard as well to be getting the field ready in time so that we can use the field as soon as the lights are ready."

The “No-Kickback” Contract

But every stage of the project, from design to tendering is managed by UNOPS – no contracts are being assigned, awarded or influenced by anyone in government.  That's a sharp deviation from business as usual – and usually, "business" means someone pockets a kickback.  In fact, the Marion Jones Stadium where today's event was hosted might be a prime example of that.  But that can't happen with this new facility because of the presence of UNOPS, and we asked the Minister of State how much the difference means to him:…

Jules Vasquez
"Because it's run through UNOPS which is a UN agency no one can contact the contractor and say hey I mi get you that contract I need a lee 10%. These are things that happen in government that nobody likes to talk about but they're real. Were you alienated by this process which went through UNOPS agency?"

Hon. Elodio Aragon Jr. - Minister of State, Youth, Sports, Culture
"None at all, none at all Jules; I think it's all about accountability and it's all about value for money that is what I've always talked about, value for money. And I think if we are going to get an investment especially a donation coming from Mexico it is imperative that we get value for money."

Jules Vasquez
"However might you agree that the place where this contract is signed is almost a cathedral to loss of value for money? We do not have a functional space here despite how many millions were spent. The Taiwanese gave so many millions, they did not get value for money at Marion Jones because of this local system of graft where everybody fi get and kick back and a 10%."

Hon. Elodio Aragon Jr. - Minister of State, Youth, Sports, Culture
"Well Jules I wasn't here during that time so I can't really comment on that. I could tell you yes we are not blinded by looking at Marion Jones and where it is at this point in time but I look at it as an opportunity for us to get this done and whatever ways we can work to get it done, that is what I'm focusing on to bring this to an end. Right now there's a lot of things we are doing behind the scenes in trying to see where we could secure funding to finish Marion Jones."

Jules Vasquez
"However might you agree then that if an agency like UNOPS had been involved from the outset in Marion Jones? If those funders the Taiwanese had put their money through UNOPS instead of into the hands of the government of Belize we would have a finished facility, we would have gotten value for money but as it stands right now the untold millions and I specify nobody can tell me how many millions has been spent on Marion Jones and we still do not have a functional facility. It would have been different if it had gone through UNOPS, let's admit."

Hon. Elodio Aragon Jr. - Minister of State, Youth, Sports, Culture
"Well Jules I can't admit that out right because I don't know all the factors like I said."

Jules Vasquez
"And you don't know how many millions either."

Hon. Elodio Aragon Jr. - Minister of State, Youth, Sports, Culture
"Neither but what I'm telling you right now is that when we look at where the investment for Marion Jones is - remember Marion Jones wasn't a project that started with a set budget and saying okay here is 10 million dollars from start to finish. It never came to be that situation; what happened from what I understand a donation from the Taiwanese embassy and along with government which would have matched up funds and then they started the project without an end date and that is the situation and that is what I think has led us to where we are right now."

"So you believe if we put the processes of our projects in external hands to supervise we will get more accountability than if our own government is supervising them?"

Hon. Elodio Aragon Jr. - Minister of State, Youth, Sports, Culture
"Not really you know because you have to understand a foreign entity here, they are not here on charity you know, they get paid to be here. So a large amount of that money they will also collect a certain amount of money for administrative cost etc. for salaries, for the people that are here overseeing those projects. What I'm saying is you have your benefits and you have your disadvantages. My thing is what we need is to have proper accounting and to do that we need to have processes that will work, that will be fair, objective and that we will eliminate the - like Jules said that 10% etc."

Is Marion Jones Complex Being Elevated To The Detriment Of MCC?

And so now that the Marion Jones Complex is getting new football lights – what does that mean for Belize City's primary football field – which is the MCC?  We asked Aragon what are the plans for the MCC – which already had part of it property turned into a casino parking lot:…

Jules Vasquez
"Are you all putting in lights here elevating this at the demise of MCC? Is it a suggestion that well guys we will have a well-lit football field over ya maybe you could switch over from MCC then turn MCC from a parking lot into an extension of the Princess. Maybe they could put a new casino where the MCC is; I don't know what you're plans are, you're friendly with the people."

Hon. Elodio Aragon Jr. - Minister of State, Youth, Sports, Culture
"None at all, Jules this can never take away what MCC is. You have to understand Belize this is a population roughly about 90,000 people right and you're talking about a lot of young people and this facility we're getting ready for the national games, for big games - major games that come down where the Belizean public could come and ensure they have a seating facility, they have the proper facility to host and enjoy these games. The MCC is there you know and will always be there because at the end of the day one field will never suffice for this city. This will be a major compliment if we could get the field lighted, improvements on the field so that we could hold our bigger games here. For instance when we had the game in terms of the friendly match with Honduras and Belize that will come up; how good would that game be played here in Belize City where have majority of the population? I think we can generate a lot more money from the fans that would come out and see that game."

The MCC currently has working lights for night games.

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