As I pass by and observe the demolition of the Belize City Center I can’t help but reminisce of some of the great moments I have been a part of, or a witness to, in that building. It is unfortunate to observe the demise of this public facility that should have still been able to serve not only the Belize City community but the entire country. A project of such magnitude which plays an important role in the social fabric of the country in my estimation should have lasted a least another 25 years. This is just another example of the mindset of our leaders and what they really represent – self-interest and party before the needs of the country – what a waste.
Nevertheless, my first introduction to the Civic Center was in 1993 coming from Deep South to participate in the second and last Belize Games playing basketball. I was excited, finally getting an opportunity to play in this spanking new state of the art indoor sporting facility. It eventually turned out that the Civic would be where I would continue the rest of my basketball career. I was fortunate to have played with Maca Lamb and Minor Castellanos in an interoffice tournament and winning after they had retired from the Penta Lakers in the early nineties.
Remember the CARICOM Games in ‘98 when every game that the Belize team played the Civic was filled to capacity. We got a chance to watch players like Milton Palacio and Alex Carcamo and the rest of the team who led us to the CARICOM championship.
A game I will never forget was the finals of the ‘99 semi-pro basketball league whilst playing with BTL Nets. We had a solid squad and were led by the one and only Ian “A.C.” Augustine. It was a privilege to have been a part of that team watching A.C. bringing out his full basketball repertoire dominating the entire season that year. This was a time when U.S.-based players were allowed to be on the rosters of the teams. Basketball was being played at a very high level and A.C. schooled everybody that was thrown at him. If we would revisit the statistics for that particular season it would reveal that A.C was the most valuable player that year.
The Civic drew huge crowds during those games and that finals game between B.T.L. Nets and the Kremandala Raiders was to crown the champions of the semi-pro basketball league. The Raiders had us blown out by 20 points at the half. The Civic was filled to capacity; the game was live on Channel Five and we in the locker room of the B.T.L. Nets were not ready to go home without a fight. The coach called a full court press, a defense we had practiced all season long and now it was time to execute. Players were locked in and the press was played to perfection so much so that with 6 seconds left in the game we were up by 4 points.
Keith Acosta, who was fresh out of college from the U.S., was the point man for the Raiders. He was fouled from the three-point line and went to the free throw line and drilled all three free throws to bring his team to within one. Darren Bovell was then fouled for the Nets and went to the line and missed two of his free throws. The time by then wound down to 0.04 second on the clock. The Raiders got back the ball and had one play to make. By now there was pandemonium in the Civic. On the Nets’ bench, players were already celebrating what would have been one of the greatest comebacks in basketball history in Belize; we were .04 seconds away from the championship. When the game resumed and we came out of the timeout, the most incredible finish of any basketball game at any level unfolded. The perfect pass from out of bounds at halfcourt was made from Duck Garnett over the top of the entire B.T.L. five on the court to Keith Acosta, who in one motion caught and dunked the ball giving the mighty Raiders the 1 point win and the championship. Incredible.
For me this was the greatest game ever played in the now demolished Belize City Center. Hopefully its replacement will be of high quality and standard for the next generation. Beside its shortcomings, the Belize City Center was host to some great moments in our sports history.