The mystical magic of the Birds Isle sporting venue in Belize City, Belize, that Dr. Colville Young, now Belize's Governor General called, "a paradise on earth" in his song, Birds Isle, is no more. At least since Hurricane Earl that devastated Belize City on August 3, 2016, and completely destroyed what use to be Belize's most eclectic sports arena in the country where electrifying Belizean basketball, boxing, volleyball, indoor football, dances, and musical shows were performed in the 1970's and 80's.
Let's give the Birds Isle Sporting Complex a big up here in terms of the fact that it provided sports recreation and a basketball sporting outlet that developed all the 70's 'Ballers of that time. When you juxtapose it alongside the 1960's St. Ignatius basketball complex, if we can called them that, you find that Birds Isle rose above being that it provided a more quality basketball venue of its time.
While we cannot really call it a state of the art "wooden court", it was a step up from the cement court at St. Ignatius School that was ruining the knees of many a basketball players. And that the Holy Redeemer Parish Hall on the northside of Belize City also had a wooden court that was not really state of the art but nevertheless a better cushion for the developing basketball players of that time. Minister Henry Young Sr., who was a former minister of tourism in the 1984 Esquivel administration had in many ways became a visionary of his time before that, regardless of the fact that some may see the destruction of Black Birds Island to make Birds Isle, an environmental disaster.
The Island was a multi-faceted facility Belizean style where even indoor football Belizeans called "Fibaside" was played on that very wooden court. The Island was where many Belizean basketball lovers saw for the first time, the popular "dunk" done when Lansing Community College played a Belizean selection in an exhibition game, and the African-American college baller, Joe Ray Taylor, 'slammed di ball' for Belizeans with great fanfare. The legendary Belizean basketball player, Clinton "Pulu" Lightburn, was part of that Belizean basketball selection.
And the Island was where Belizean boxing raged in grand style, and we saw the likes of all Belizean boxing legends like David Dakers, Roy 'Shorty' Clarke', Raymond 'Sixteen' Thompson, and the adopted Belizean boxing legend, the late Trinidadian Fitzroy Guisseppi ruled the ring. Even for me who can remember my boxing in my first Golden Gloves tournament at "The Island", and feeling the pressure of the Belizean sports spectators, and the feel of canvas under my feet for the first time. Wow, for many of us who hadn't even been exposed to the great United States yet, that mood of being at 'The Island' was something. There is so much to say about Birds Isle from a Belizean sports standpoint.
Will Belizeans ever see the likes of Birds Isle ever again? There is this new line of thinking in Belize now that all those old time venues in Belize like Birds Isle, MCC Grounds, Rogers Stadium, Yarba Field, Civic. etc., and many more across the country where Belizean sports legends once trod has passed its time. And that Belize has too much land laying waste for government to go and fix up what some Belizeans call 'these old dilapidated facilities'.
It appears to be that such line of thinking created the attack on the legendary MCC Grounds, and why parts of it has been turned into a parking lot for the Princess Hotel just across the street where it has remained dormant for many years now, and Belizeans are hoping that the big money hotel and casino doesn't have its was in completely gobbling up The Garden and erase what it was and still are.
The new reasoning makes much sense, but how come it appears that we can't build any new sporting complex yet on these so-called lands laying waste? But all Belizeans appear to get are these empty promises while talent is left to go to waste in the mean streets of Belize? Well, at least Belmopan appears to have a new state of the art football field but Marion Jones Sporting Complex appears to be struggling to be what it is suppose to be. And wasn't there a new court at the Civic Auditorium, and that was torn down?
After Birds Isle, The Civic was the place that had a state of the art wooden basketball court for the first time where the grand days of the 1990's basketball tournaments brought back a whole new generation of Belizean basketball fans and supporters. Milton Palacio and his 1999 Central American & Caribbean Games gold medalists played and practiced on that very court. So why hasn't governments both past and present had developed or stepped in to refurbished all those so-called old sporting venues like Birds Isle, MCC Grounds, Rogers Stadium, and many other classics across the country while they had the money to do so? That is a question that many inquiring minds would like to know?
In this celebrated expose on the classical Belizean sporting venue, Birds Isle, these questions has got to be asked as we might be seeing the last vestiges of one of Belize's most historic sporting arenas closed up for good by a 2016 hurricane called Earl that laid it to rest, if not permanently, then at least for now. Long live Birds Isle.
(Photos through the courtesy of the book by Belizean author and writer, Evan X Hyde called Sports, Sin & Subversion)
Clinton "Pulu" Lightburn, Belizean basketball legend doing his most outstanding work in the sport of basketball at the eclectic Birds Isle Sporting Complex in the 1978. Watch the passionate Belizean sports lovers in the background.
The legendary adopted Belizean boxer, Fitzroy Guisseppi, far right, along with another adopted Belizean, Trinidadian Calypsonian, Calypso Rose in the middle, in one of his most classic fights against the Panamanian boxing giant, Lagunita Rodriguez at the popular Belizean Birds Isle Sporting Complex in Belize City, Belize. See the massive crowd of Belizean boxing lovers who once use to jam packed "The Island" during its hay day as a historic sporting venue in the 1970's and 1980's in Belize.