Features — 10 April 2015 — by Kareem Clarke
Marion Jones Sports Complex opened, but not quite completed

BELIZE CITY, Wed. Mar. 25, 2015–After a series of delays and on-and-off construction that spanned several years, a “soft” opening of the Marion Jones Sports Complex was held today by present Minister of State in the Ministry of Education, Youth and Sports, Hon. Herman Longsworth.

Since the last groundbreaking ceremony for the stadium in August 2009, the projected launch of the state-of-the-art facility had been put off multiple times.

Still, the high-caliber multi-purpose sports complex is nearing completion, even if it is only in parts. At this point, the contract for the bleachers and accompanying facilities is complete, and the sports complex is in a usable state.

During a media tour of the long-awaited stadium this afternoon, Longsworth elaborated on the progress of the project and its current stage.

He said, “The contract for this complex is complete. When it was tendered, the cost came in much higher than the government had budgeted for, and so it was divided into 2 phases.

Government entered into a contract with the contractor to complete what they could have afforded with the monies they had. So far as that contract is concerned, I would say that we are 98% complete. The balance of the building will depend on additional funding coming from government, so I don’t know what will happen to that.”

“If you want me to speak to the entire complex, I would say it is 80% complete. The contract was specifically for this building and the parking area. We have not yet done anything with the parking, but the building is substantially complete except for what are to become the Sports Council offices on the 3rd level, and what is to be the press boxes and the VIP boxes on the 5th level”, he noted.

“We’re also still working, but I expect those works to be completed on the ground level, which is the athletes’ locker rooms and showers etc. They’re not complete as yet, but we’re pretty close now to having them completed”, he further said.

According to Longsworth, all the basic amenities such as bathrooms, concession areas, locker rooms, and seating are ready for public use, and he noted that while at this phase, the facility will only be able to accommodate track and field, football, cycling and beach volleyball, but when the indoor facility is completed, the stadium will be able to also host basketball, volleyball, boxing, karate and table tennis.

He added that construction on the indoor facility should start by the middle of this year, courtesy of an expected $10 million grant from the Mexican government.

As was mentioned, the almost $16 million building is also retrofitted with press boxes, office spaces for the National Sports Council, ticket booths, and a VIP lounge that is nearing completion.

While he concurred that works on the stadium have taken longer than expected, Longsworth pointed out that the financing for the project came out of the Government’s coffers, and he assured that the expanded facility is “specifically geared towards the athletes and the public to view sports.”

The Sports Minister also conceded that maintenance – which is vital to the upkeep of the sports complex – will be very expensive, and therefore, the possibility of turning over that responsibility to a private company is being considered.

Even though the finishing touches are still being put on this segment of the project, we understand the facility will be open to athletes who need it to train for their different sporting disciplines.

Longsworth told us that the general public will be allowed to use certain parts of the facility, but for a fee, which will be used to help cover the maintenance costs.

He also stated that there will be an official opening of the Marion Jones as soon as all the works are properly completed.

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