By Neto Baptiste
The government is currently mulling ways to remove the famed double-decker stand as part of the overall redevelopment of the historic Antigua Recreation Grounds (ARG).
This is according to Sports minister Daryll Matthew, who explained that one of the major concerns in this regard is the imminent displacement of vendors who ply their trade in shops located at the base of the unused stand.
“We are in the final stages of engaging someone to put together a proper development plan for the ARG so that we don’t work in a piecemeal fashion and that will be rolled out to the public when it’s complete. Of course, we are going to have to speak to the shop owners up there who ply their trade and sell food and so on in the ARG because there will be some dislocation. But what we are looking to do is to ensure that whatever plans are drawn up for the area – in particular that double decker area where most of them operate – that they are not displaced permanently,” he said.
The demolition of the former WIOC stand has been on the cards for some time, with the Antigua and Barbuda Football Association officially condemning the stands over a year ago, barring patrons from utilizing the structure during Premier Division matches at the venue.
Hinting that the removal of the stand could come later this year, Matthew said there is no intention to displace football during the process.
“We have had discussions on and off with the ABFA and I don’t foresee football not being played inside of the Antigua Recreation Grounds. In fact, it will most likely continue as the primary venue for football in Antigua and Barbuda because it’s convenient, it’s adequate; we just have to ensure that the facility is maintained and stays at a particular level constantly,” the minister said.
The football association holds a lease on the ARG and hosts its highest level of competition at the venue between September and March every year. Antigua and Barbuda’s annual Carnival celebration is also held at the centralized venue from July to August.