by Jorge Aldana
When San Pedro was a village with just a couple hundred people, the Saca Chispas Football field, was a garbage dump for the then fishing community. It was later cleaned and made into the island’s only football field. I have sat down and listened to many conversations on how local football celebrities were carved and made into great players to the height that some were selected to be a part of the Belize National Team on countless occasions. Local migration in the middle of the 1980’s followed by the large influx of Belizeans seeking better job opportunity on the island in the 1990’s, certainly began putting serious constrain on several of the island’s resources. This was the case with sports and the small Saca Chispas Football Field.
When the Ambergris Stadium came along with the expansion of the town, it was a much welcomed addition to the sports aficionados. But again, with the growth and demand on the island, soon the Ambergris Stadium was not only overused, but it began deteriorating. Runoff from large development that began popping up, poor drainage infrastructure coupled with the fact that it was a low lying area, made it difficult for grass to grow on the pitch year round. During the rainy season, it became a footballer’s nightmare – mucky and inundated.
In the early part of the Ambergris stadium, the bleachers were not the best. It had to be fixed every so often. Fencing and lighting was poor. I can remember coming to the island on countless occasions to do live broadcast with KREM Radio along with AJ Hill, JC Arzu and Glen Tillett. I remember broadcastings from an elevated wooden structure and every time those in the downstairs bar got excited, the entire building would shake. When the building got bad, they had to do repairs but it was still not the best. I also remember coming as part of the Libertadores Football Management to play San Pedro Football Club and the Dolphins. It was back in those days that I became good friends with people like Elito, Joker and Tito just to name a few. I have maintained that friendship since then.
I say all this because now, the old Ambergris Field is no more. That has gone down into the aisle of history and in its place is a spanking new FIFA Standard Football Field. This football stadium has an artificial grass pitch, proper lighting and fencing, fully equipped with locker rooms, resting rooms for two teams and officiating staff, bathrooms for spectators, two VIP areas, food courts, ticket booths, a first class broadcasting area and concrete bleachers for about 2000 spectators. This infrastructure was built to withstand hurricanes and players have no need to worry about rain; the water runs off the pitch into a drain. In addition, there is ample parking. The entire designated area was not developed because, as I understand it, the remaining land will be used in the future for a sporting complex to accommodate volleyball, basketball games and other indoors activities.
While the Ambergris Stadium was built at a cost of $4.4 million, it was something that was much desired for years by the sporting community. Let’s face it - The Ambergris Stadium is a beauty to behold for those of us who love sports.
As for the old Saca Chispas stadium, it was re-aligned in an effort to help address some of the traffic issues and shifted a few feet to the west. It was renamed the Hon Louis “Cuz” Sylvestre Sporting Arena and is now used for small football matches, softball and other recreational and larger cultural functions. Even after Mayor Daniel Guerrero received that project, it had some flooding problems, but much work has been done and that issue is now solved. Small mobile bleachers were constructed. We all enjoy the five-a-side matches and softball games hosted there.
There is no one that can argue that the island has seen more sporting activities over the past three years. Where the Council and Sporting Council do not directly spearhead some of the sporting activities; they have given support at almost all levels. But perhaps the singular flagship project as it relates to sports has been achieved – the construction of the Ambergris Stadium. It is a significant investment that was only made possible under the hard work of the Council, working closely with the Sports Committee and the Government of Belize through the Ministry of Education, Youth and Sports is evident. It is an achievement that is not only welcomed by the sporting community, but serves as a reminder to all of us – that it takes visionary people to leave a lasting impact in an area many of us view as least important in the social fabric of our community.
Credit must given to those deserving of it; history will record that it was under Councilor Hector “Tito” Alamilla, the councillor with responsibility of sports, that the Ambergris Stadium was materialized.