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Joined: Oct 1999
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Marty Offline OP
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Of course, the Minister of Education is also the Minister of Sports - and we took the opportunity today to talk to him about the Marion Jones Stadium and the City center.

Both facilities are closed - and don't look like they will be opening anytime soon. And, as bad as they were - which is pretty bad - they were the country's premier facilities for basketball, volleyball and track.

And now that they are closed with no completion date in sight - athletes who aspire to any elite level - are being sent a clear message: NOT NOW.

Faber conceded Marion Jones is a little behind schedule - while the City Center project is in the air:

Hon. Patrick Faber - Minister of Education
"I am not sure why you are saying that it's lagging behind. Certainly, since the last pronouncement was made as to the time frame, it is not lagging behind. As I understand it, we intend to have the Marion Jones Facility completed at some point in 2013. So in that regard, we can't say that it's lagging behind. The works are - at this point - not where it should be, yes, but it's not the kind of issue that it's so far behind, that it can't be brought up to speed. I will tell you that I think though that Minister Herman Longsworth and I, since we have taken over the Ministry of Sports have been very diligent in meeting with the stakeholders - the contractor, the consultant - to make sure that the Marion Jones Complex Project does not fail to meet the people's expectations, as made by whatever the last time frame that was given."

Jules Vasquez
"And is there any progress on the Civic Center?"

Hon. Patrick Faber
"As far as I am understanding, yes, although I am not able to say definitely. I had indicated - I think a few weeks ago on one of the morning talk shows - that we were not certain. The finance was not nailed down, so to speak, as it related to the Mexican Government making that contribution. You know that the Prime Minister announced that it would have been a gift from the Mexican people. And we are no closer to saying that we've secured that funding, but all is not lost. We're hoping that something can still be done, although, I don't want to get people's hopes up falsely. It's not looking it's going to happen - at least not in this calendar year."

Jules Vasquez
"But certainly, you realize the deleterious effect that this has on the moral - not only of older athletes, but of young athletes - when they realize that the nation - the state - is telling you, 'Don't get into athletics, we are not ready for you.'"

Hon. Patrick Faber
"I don't know how you get to that, Jules. We are working diligently to make sure that the Marion Jones Complex is completed. That facility - as I understand it - will cater to athletics. It will cater to football, and it will cater to a number of disciplines -"

Jules Vasquez
"But it's been close to 4 years."

Hon. Patrick Faber
"Yes, you are right, and I can't take responsibility for all of that. They know that under my watch, I am trying to make sure that the last time frame that they gave us, is now going - it is not on target; let me not tell you a lie - but we're insistent to make sure that that is realized close to the date that was given, which I believe was in 2013 at some point. As it relates to basketball, you are right in that there is no home for it. We've discussed that with the Basketball Federation, and I don't want to put things out there because then it becomes - we become obliged almost to get it done, or people will say that you say these things and you are not serious. We're in discussions to see what can be done in the short term to provide a place for basketball and volleyball in this country because we know it is putting a hurting on the city. It's putting a hurting on the recreation, and on some of the competitions that are going on, even in the Ministry of Education where we have the primary school tournaments that is being played outside of the Civic Center. And you know that many issues have come up with the security there and issues."

The Marion Jones stadium has been closed for construction since March of 2008, and since then, the project has gone through a number of visions and revisions. We understand that after the passage of the prime of a few athletes, the synthetic track has recently been laid.

As for the City Center, the last update was that it would be demolished by February of this year - which didn't happen, it is still standing, an apparently eternal monument to bloated contracts.

Channel 7

Joined: Oct 1999
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Marty Offline OP
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"The Real Deal" to present Update on Marion Jones Stadium

Minister Herman Longsworth at the Marion Jones Stadium

"The Real Deal" is a very informative show that is quickly taking control of Thursday nights in Belize. It starts at 8 p.m. on Wave TV and Channel 7 and provides inside information on a wide range of topics. On Thursday, May 10, the show will feature the Marion Jones Stadium construction site.

The Guardian accompanied Douglas Singh, host of "The Real Deal," to the Marion Jones Stadium construction site on Wednesday, May 9. There, we met with Hon. Herman Longsworth, Minister of State in the Ministry of Education, Youth and Sport. Minister Longsworth explained that the project is now at "stage 4 (A)". The actual entrance to the stadium is now being constructed. The foundation has already been established, complete with an elevator shaft and basement space. The basement space will include dressing rooms and bathroom facilities for athletes and other performers. A ticket booth will be situated at the entrance door. After a ticket is purchased, the individual will enter the stadium and use either the elevator or one of two circular stairways to reach their seat level. The structure will be five stories high, the height of the RF&G building on Coney Drive, and will include VIP and Press Boxes. There will also be office spaces that will house the National Sports Council and the Ministry of Sports.

Already completed at the stadium are the beach volleyball facility and Olympic standard synthetic track. The beach volleyball pitch has already been used to host its first international tournament, the Central America Championships. The synthetic track will finally provide the quality facility for training that athletes have been begging for. The Marion Jones Stadium will also boast a FIFA-standard football field and grandstand with space for thousands of spectators for international matches. There will also be a practice field inside the stadium for training and local matches. The stadium will also return an age old tradition where Belizeans gather in the bleachers to watch the finishing of the Cross Country Cycling Classic. The road way used by cyclists will be upgraded using hot mix. A building will also be constructed, to host basketball and volleyball matches. When a permanent home for basketball is constructed the building will be used specifically for volleyball. Since the synthetic track will be reserved for competitive athletes only, a jogging track will be constructed for the public.

The men employed under the project take great pride in their work. They understand very well the importance of the project and the impact it will have on sports in Belize. Some of them were competitive athletes themselves. One man said he is happy because though he did not have a state-of-the-art facility to play in, his children will have one and his labour will play a part in that. Construction is scheduled to be completed at the end of 2013 and the stadium is expected to be opened shortly after.

The Venezuelan Government has contributed $2 million to the project that is expected to cost a little less than $15 million. The Government of Belize is providing the additional funds in order for work to continue. However, the Government is engaged in discussions with the government of the Republic of China on Taiwan. An agreement has been reached that will see the Taiwanese Government assist with a substantial amount of finance for the project. The Government of Belize has chosen not to wait for the funds to reach because the project has been long delayed.

Hon. Herman Longsworth and the project manager of the stadium construction will appear on "The Real Deal" Thursday night at 8 p.m. on Wave TV and Channel 7 to give more details on the project and provide a background on the construction.

BTL will launch its 4G network October of this year.

The Guardian

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