At the top of the news, we told you how Area Representative Herman Longsworth is stepping aside to make way for Tracey Taegar Panton. That makes him – in political terms – a lame duck representative – but he tried to show the media today that he’s no lame duck minister of state.

He took us to a soft launch for the Marion Jones Sporting Complex – whose opening has been delayed more times than we can count.

It is envisioned as high caliber multi purpose sporting complex, but it is only being completed in parts. The contract for the bleachers and accompanying facilities is complete, and the sporting complex is in a usable state.

The 2015 Bandfest will be the first time that the general public will be invited in use the complex, since the Upgrading works began years ago. Here’s what Longsworth told us about the progress since the last time he showed us around:

Hon. Herman Longsworth - Minister of Stater, Minister of Education, Youth and Sports

"The contract for this complex complete. When it was tendered had come in much higher than the budget the government had and so it was divided into 2 phases. And the 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 to complete, so I don't know what will happen to that. So if you want me to speak to the entire complex, I would say it is 80% complete. The contract was specifically for this building for the parking. The overall project for this building and the parking area. We have not done anything with the parking - the building substantially complete expect for what are to become the sport council offices on the 3rd level and what is to be the press boxes and the VIP boxes right up here on the 5th level. We're also still working but I expect that to be completed on level 0, which is the athlete's locker rooms and showers etc - i'll take you down there and show you were those are but they're not complete as yet but we're pretty close now to having them complete."

Daniel Ortiz

"When can persons decide to come in here an make use of this place?"

Hon. Herman Longsworth

"Well we certainly will have the band fest had here this weekend coming. So obviously it is ready for public use. The bathrooms are all ready and in place - everything is ready as you can as you walk downstairs. The seating is ready, so we're pretty much there. Certainly in terms of - and I want to say band fest is not the official opening of this facility. We are allowing them to use it because we consider the facility to be substantially complete and we want to test it. We want to put people in here to see how it will react to having the public in. So we need to do that but it is not the official opening. We're going to have an official opening when we're finished properly. At this phase we will only be able to accommodate track and field, football, cycling and beach volleyball currently. But when we get the indoor facility, we will be able to also have basketball, volleyball, boxing, table tennis - that sort of things we'll be able to done right here."

This facility has a cost of 16 million dollars so far. The maintenance for it will be very expensive, so Longsworth is considering turning it over to a private company to maintain it. But, as you heard, there is a lot left to be done on the Marion Jones. Longsworth told us about it:

Hon. Herman Longsworth

"Not nearly where I would want to see it. This is a substantial part of it yes but we intend to get an indoor facility just to the north where those mangroves are from the Mexicans. It won't be government financing. I will be a 10 million dollar grant through the Mexican government and that should start by the middle of this year. I believe by the end of this month everything will be signed and we will be able to proceed with the design, etc. I want to see in that area a swimming pool going there. We're not any where near what I would want to see in terms of the master plan - i would say we are maybe 50-60% there."

Daniel Ortiz

"There are some who would suggest that this Marion Jones complex and all the upgrades that's been happening so far is kind of a bed sore for the government because persons wanted it to be completed from a long time ago. How do you assure the public that this won't become a white elephant? Where parts of it is being used, you abandon what has already been here and you decide you're going to build somewhere else and you lose all the investment that has already been put here."

Hon. Herman Longsworth

"Just the mere investment is so prohibitive to build something like this again. That's not going to happen in the the near future. This is going to be used and it's going to be over used I can bet you that. So there is no worrying that the facility won't be used. I don't see that happening at all. I fully expect that we will be swamped with people wanting to use this facility. I'm confident of that."

Daniel Ortiz

"Sir, have we gotten value for money for what has been built so far?"

Hon. Herman Longsworth

"I believe we have. I will have concur with you on the fact that it has taken longer than all expected but I am forced to say that I remember a few years ago there was a prime minister who came out here and kicked a football with a certain ambassador - not a thing came of it. I can tell you, there is another prime minister who didn't come out here and kick a football but he put money here and you can see what we have here. So this is a tangible difference from what existed here a few years ago.”

There will be an official opening of the Marion Jones at a later date to be announced, and while the other works are being completed, the facility will be open to athletes who need it to train for their different sporting disciplines. The general public will be allowed to use certain parts of the facility, but for a fee, which will be put to use for the maintenance cost.

The cross country will not finish at the Marion Jones as promised. That’s because the cycling federation opted instead to finish it at BTL Park for sponsorship purposes.


As we told you last night, the long delayed Marion Jones sporting complex is mostly finished - enough for a soft opening for the media yesterday. We gave you the broad outline yesterday - and tonight we look at some of the finer points for the much anticipated stadium that has had Belizeans sports on hold for years. You be the judge of whether it was worth the wait:..

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