Civic Center ready by December
A state of the art sporting arena- the first of its kind in the country, is slowly taking shape at the foot of the Belcan Bridge. The Belize Civic Center was demolished in September of 2013, shortly after the Prime Minister had announced that a new arena would be constructed at the site to replace the old dilapidated structure which had seen better days.
It was not until two years later in October of 2015 that work commenced on the ground to construct the new building. Through a joint partnership between Medina’s Construction and International Environments (I.E), work has been going according to plan for the two year construction of the 32 million dollar facility. Very little has been said about the structure but it is quite evident that from an outsider’s view point that it is quite a remarkable building that is being constructed.
This week, the Guardian had the opportunity to visit the site and we found out that within the next 6 months the building will be complete and when it is, it will be the most sophisticated sports arena in the entire country.
We spoke to representatives of I.E. who gave us a tour of the new structure. According to them, the building is a prefabricated fire rated galvanized reinforced steel structure. This means that it will not be subject to rust and will be able to withstand an intense fire under the building for at least two hours before the structure becomes unsound. While the primary function of the building will be a sporting arena, it will also duplicate as a hurricane shelter.
The seating capacity as a sports arena will be 4,500 persons but as a hurricane shelter at its maximum capacity it would be able to accommodate as many as 7 thousand persons. As such the building was designed to be self-contained, having water reservoirs both in front of the building as well as having water tanks on the upper portion of it. The building will also have standby generators which along with the water will be able to, at maximum consumption be able to sustain 7 thousand persons for 5 days. Being designed as a hurricane shelter, the structure will also be equipped with 8 sets of bathroom facilities which will be able to process waste to be pumped into the existing sewer system in the city. Also within the design the structure will be able to withstand hurricane force winds with gusts of up to 145 miles per hour.
While the hurricane shelter will be a secondary function, the main features of the building will be to accommodate sporting and concert events. As mentioned before there will be 4,500 individual bucket seats installed and along with that type of attendance, under the building as many as 80 vehicles will be able to be parked. An additional 190 vehicles will also be accommodated in the compound with a total of 270 vehicles being able to park in the facility. Inside the building there will be a FIBA certified basketball court which will double as three practice courts as well as be able to be transformed to host all manner of sporting events like boxing, UFC fights, volleyball, tennis and even indoor football. A public announcement system will also be put in place along with 4 media booths and 6 media platforms for cameras to be placed at various angles. There will also be a fiber optic system in place for broadcasting events. These event will also have lighting for high definition broadcasting. Along with these lights will be catwalks above the arena for service personnel to move and manipulate the lighting system.
From a revenue generating standpoint, the building will also feature concession areas as big as 80 feet by 15 feet along with smaller areas. There will also be a VIP area elevated above the arena for ‘owner boxes.’ Other amenities for the court will be a retractable seats to allow for court side spectators as well as an indoor stage measuring 30 feet by 50 feet complete with sound and lighting systems. This will be able to be assembled inside the arena.
Since the mammoth of a building will be able to house by far the largest number of persons than any other sporting arena, there are concerns over the cooling system. I.E. reps say that there is no concern there as the building is fully insulated and will have a fully functioning air conditioning system that will circulate fresh air in the building. Added to that there will be a vent system that will be able to extract smoke out of the building in the event of an indoor fire to prevent smoke from being trapped inside the building. This will be complemented by a fire alarm system as well.
The inside of the arena will be the main attraction of the complex but it is not be the only area of sport-oriented features. Outside there will be a synthetic track, a small football pitch as well as two outdoor basketball courts and a skate boarding area. At the riverside a boat-landing will be constructed to allow for persons to attend sporting events via the river. As part of an integration into the neighborhood, the two adjoining streets will be paved and there will be provisions put in place to integrate neighbors into business partnerships with the ultimate managers of the building.
Coming at a cost of 32 million dollars, on average there are 70 employees working on the construction with an average salary of $250 per week. Along with these employees there are 5 international consultants on site that supervise the assembly of the building. Contrary to what has been rumored there is no cost overrun on the building, a much talked about 12 million dollars budgeted for the building is actually a disbursement which forms part of the grander 32 million dollar price tag.