Newly installed Minister of Sport and Youth Affairs Darryl Smith wasted no time in familiarising himself with three sporting facilities that are in the final stages of construction during a tour last week.  

Smith, along with permanent secretary Gillian Macintyre as well as staff from the Sports Company of T&T (Sportt), did a comprehensive walk-through of the Aquatic Centre and Cycling Velodrome in Couva and the Tennis Centre in Tacarigua.

During the tour, the Minister identified his priorities regarding the facilities, including the development of comprehensive plans and policies for the proper maintenance, management and upkeep of the three facilities. Smith noted that in the past, several facilities and buildings were commissioned but soon needed substantial refurbishment due to inadequate preventative maintenance management.

Another element Smith is keen on implementing is a proper usage policy for national and elite level athletes. The facilities were built for the nation’s athletes to have a viable option to train at home for international competition. The Minister felt that it was important that all the necessary athletic amenities were also readily available to allow local athletes a full cadre of support services that would complement their competitive exploits. Among those support services identified by the Minister while in discussion with SportsCompany personnel included, strength and conditioning, sports psychology, reflexology, message therapy, performance testing, sports medicine and injury prevention.

Supplying a capacity building for the National Sporting Organisations with an emphasis on increased levels of participation in their respective sports, is also on his agenda. Smith emphasised the need for baseline data (participation, demographics, frequency, access, etc) across all sports, which should lead to better decision-making about investments of state funds and the continued sustainable development of each discipline. He added that with the completion of the facilities, the sporting bodies must play their part in achieving greater participation, accreditation, volunteerism and spectatorship for their sport.

The Minister has also commissioned a full review of all the rates and user policies across all of the facilities under the purview of the Ministry and Sportt. While all of the facilities have a role to play in providing for the needs of athletes at all levels, attention must also be focused on income generation in order to ensure the citizen sees an economic return on the millions invested, and that the facilities can achieve self-sustainability.

Also, all facilities will be outfitted with modern, eco-friendly equipment and systems. The facilities’ operational procedures and policies must also prioritise energy efficiency and reducing their carbon footprint.

The three projects were conceptualised in 2007 and were officially commenced in 2009 when international project management consulting firm Pix International Holdings was commissioned by the Sports Company to develop the terms and reference, scope of work and tendering and evaluation process. The contract was tendered in 2009 and following a full evaluation of all the bids, the Shanghai Construction Group was identified as the preferred contractor and was awarded in 2011.

The facilities are expected to be fully operational early next year.