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Purely Dominica

Purely Dominica

It is probably with good reason that passersby in downtown Roseau have begun to glance nervously at the Windsor Park Sports Stadium, which dominates the city’s northern skyline.

The reason for their discomfort becomes clearer with each passing month. More often than not, the magnificent stadium looms large and silent. Its massive main gate is often shut and its 10,000 seats are usu¬ally empty. Most days, only birds swoop and perch on its media centre, practice nets, players’ complex, scoreboards and five cricket pitches.

Although the stadium is a multi-purpose complex, it was clearly built to be mainly a cricket centre. But despite lobbying by Dominica’s cricket officials, the stadium continues to be sidelined by the West Indies Cricket Board (WICB) as a venue for revenue generating inter¬national Test, One Day International and Twenty-20 cricket matches.

From all reports, Dominica’s bid to host at least one big match in upcoming cricket tours to the West Indies has been turned down because the island does not have enough hotel rooms and does not have an international airport with night landing facilities. As such, the stadium is starting to attract hard questions about its long-term viability.

There is no quick fix in sight for the lack of an international airport with night landing. There is also no short-term solution to creating the number of additional hotel rooms needed to reach the level of overseas visitors the WICB expects. Therefore, in the short term, the stadium is not likely to get major cricket matches and would not generate significant revenue from cricket.There are some alternatives. The stadium is already the venue for the World Creole Music Festival (WCMF) and significant national events. However, it is not clear how much revenue for the stadium these events generate. Indeed, the low level of activity at the stadium since it opened in October last year suggests that it would be in use for only 21 to 30 days each year.

Concerned persons are starting to ask: With this low level of activity at the new stadium, how can it positively impact the nation’s economy, especially tourism? Also, while the stadium itself was a gift from the People’s Republic of China, how will its maintenance costs be met? Can the events carded for the stadium this year earn enough profits to cover its upkeep during the times when it is not in use?

This is the time for innovative thinking on the part of the stadium’s curators. It is the time for serious research into all possible revenue streams. Someone has to take a long, hard look at the management of stadiums of similar size in other regional nations and see what plans and programmes are in place for them. Perhaps there are lessons to be learnt and strategies that could be emulated here.

Even so, it is hard to see how the number of international events at the stadium could be increased without a night access airport and a significantly higher number of good quality hotel rooms. This puts great pressure on those responsible for the stadium’s management to generate revenue from the facility. Maybe increasing the number of local sporting and other activities there would help. It is essential to maximize use of the stadium.

No one wants to see the splendid national stadium deteriorate through underutilisation and become a ‘white elephant’. So no one could be satisfied with the current low level of activities at the venue.

The nation has to recognise that this is a problem and pool ideas and resources to get the stadium up and running so it has every chance to be the jewel in Dominica’s crown it was intended to be.

This article was published in the editorial section of the Chronicle Newspaper – Issue: July 4th, 2008.

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