After remaining in a dilapidated state for nine years, construction work on the Athletic and Football Stadium is now set to begin with funds from Mainland China.
The official sod-turning ceremony signaling the start of the project took place on Tuesday morning on the grounds of the Stadium in the presence of senior government ministers and public officials as well as representatives from the People’s Republic of China.
Xuefu Zhang, Project Manager, China State Construction Engineering Corporation Ltd, for the Restoration and Reconstruction of the Football and Athletic Stadium from the People’s Republic of China said that the total construction cost of the facility is approximately US$25 million.
Zhang promised that “as the main contractor, we have capability and confidence to ensure the high standards to build quality and also guarantee to complete and hand over this project on time to benefit all of the Grenadian people.
“We believe the compliment of this project will be another milestone of the friendship between Grenada and China,” he said.
Minister with responsibility for Youth, Sports and Religious Affairs, Emmalin Pierre welcomed the start of the project as she expressed regret that the present state of the facility has resulted in lost opportunities over the past six years which she blamed on the former administration of ex-Prime Minister Tillman Thomas.
The female government minister says she anticipates the completion of the facility to host the 2015 CARIFTA Games as well as serve as a training facility for a number of world-class athletes.
She was confident that the stadium on completion will provide a major boost for athletics and football in the country.
According to Minister Pierre, the previous New National Party (NNP) government of Prime Minister, Dr. Keith Mitchell had promised the reconstruction of the stadium and has lived up to that promise after getting back into office following the February general elections.
“A promise made, a promise kept,” she said, “we came just in time to start this project.”
Minister Pierre wants the facility to serve not just as a landmark but to become a beacon of hope for young people.
“A wonderful gift to the people of Grenada, Carriacou and Petite Martinique”, she said, ‘you (People’s Republic of China) are a true friend to the people of Grenada”.
Resident Chinese ambassador, Her Excellency Ou Bouqian said that both countries have been looking forward to the start of the project since the signing of the agreement in October.
The female envoy stressed that it has come at the right time as Grenadians prepare to celebrate Christmas and the construction of the facility can be seen as a gift to the people of Grenada.
She labeled the construction of the stadium as a symbol of the friendship and a further indication of the bond of friendship between the two countries.
According to Ambassador Ou Bouqian, she understands the importance of athletics to Grenada in light of the fact that international track star and Olympic gold medalist, Kirani James has placed the country in the spotlight.
She said that she is happy to consolidate the relationship between the two countries and looked forward to more Kirani James creating their foundation in the stadium.
The Chinese diplomat assured the Grenadian Government that the project will be completed on time and of good quality while providing jobs for the people of Grenada.
Prime Minister and Minister for Finance, Dr Keith Mitchell who also spoke at the ceremony said he is delighted to see the start of the project and is optimistic that it will be completed in record time to host Secondary Schools Games (Intercol) ahead of CARIFTA Games in 2016.
“Thank God for this day and bringing us to this point”, he said, adding that the start of construction of the stadium is “a further example of keeping hope alive”.
The original stadium, built with financial assistance from the Republic of China on Taiwan and costing Grenadian taxpayers in excess of EC$159 million was destroyed by Hurricane Ivan in September 2004.
After the hurricane, Dr. Mitchell switched side and dumped Taiwan for China in the face of a lucrative package which included the rebuilding of the Cricket facilities for the 2007 Cricket World Cup.
The construction period for the new stadium has been put at 20 months, with the erection of three stands – east, west and south stands – with an estimated seating capacity of 7, 018 persons.
The west stand will have capacity seating of 1947, the east stand 2321 seats, and the south stand 2750 seats.
Additionally, the Athletic Stadium will be equipped with a number of modern sporting facilities, including an international standardised athletic track and football field.