The Belize City Center was built by the PUP Government in 1989 at an inflated cost.
Several major events of this year’s September celebrations will not be held at the Belize City Center as originally scheduled, because Ministry of Works engineers have condemned the building as unsafe for large crowds.

Some of the big events, for example the Queen of the Bay pageant, have been transferred to Bird’s Isle. The 2010 Sound Fest will also be held at Bird’s Isle and the Children’s Rally will be held at the M.C.C. grounds.

NSC Executive Director, Anthony Michael said the National Sports Council had requested the inspection.

“We have for some time now been asking the Ministry of Works to do an inspection of the Center, and they recently came and prepared an excellent report for the Council.”

The inspection, Michael said, was a mandate from his Board of Directors. The Council had always been conscious of the building’s age, deterioration and need for attention.

Patrons using the City Center have spoken often about strange vibrations in the floor, especially if there were many active people in the building. Many people would attest the floor could be felt wobbling at various major events; a situation that had served to alert the National Sports Council, the body which has legal responsibility for the management of the Belize City Center.

A four-day inspection didn’t utterly condemn the building but revealed that the pillars, the primary support and strength of the City Center, had deteriorated because of maintenance neglect.

Ministry’s engineers said the weakened condition of the building presents a real threat to large audiences.

The structural integrity of the building has been compromised, and for this reason the Center will be off limits to groups of people numbering a 1,000 or more.

Even less than 1,000 people at any given time could cause a problem if that crowd would become very active, Michael said.

He said the Ministry would also be sending over its electrical engineers to check the electrical system’s floor.

“Safety is a chief concern of the National Sports Council,” Michael declared. “So we will definitely adhere to the recommendations of the technocrats of the Ministry of Works,”

Maintenance problems result in structural weakening.
“It is the Council’s responsibility to make decisions, however unpopular, to guarantee the safety of the center’s audiences”.

The Belize City Center was built in 1989 under PUP auspices and under special contracts at a cost which was greatly inflated.

The building’s deterioration has raised eyebrows that such a relatively new building should have deteriorated so fast. The simple truth is that the salt in the air would attack any steel structure so close to the sea, witness the deterioration of the spectator stands at Marion Jones Stadium, built in 1995. In the case of the City Center, no money was provided for maintenance, and it has been slowly rusting away for the past 21 years.

The fight against rust to preserve steel structures close to the sea is a constant battle; eg. the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco is constantly being painted, all year round.

It is believed that something can be done to restore the integrity of the City Center, but this will have to await further engineering studies.

The Reporter