ARG vendors say new facility is too small and lacks security

William Powell’s stall at the bottom of the WIOC double decker stand.
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By Elesha George

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While the government prepares to make a masterpiece of the famous Antigua Recreation Ground (ARG), vendors who are to be removed from the complex say the alternative facilities are too small to facilitate their operations.

The vendors told Observer that they received notice from the Minister of Works that they would have to begin moving five days from this Monday.

The government has provided modest wooden shops adjacent to the ARG that would accommodate about four vendors, while the venue is being renovated.

“The issue is not about moving, but it’s the size of the structure to accommodate the moving,” said William Powell.

He operates Jevi’s Snackette and uses a deep freezer to store his products as well as a commercial stove to prepare food for dozens of people daily. He says there is not enough storage for these types of equipment at the new location.

“I even spoke to him [Sports Minister Daryl Matthew] about the shed — when the customer come and there is rain — if there’s going to be something to accommodate that because out there is going to be burning sun,” he explained.

The new facility where the vendors will be relocated. (Photos by Elesha George)

“I don’t think that small place will accommodate everything,” remarked Alva Joseph, another vendor who showed Observer the number of heavy duty apparatus he would have to move.

The tenants are also concerned about security, as their businesses have been safely tucked behind ARG’s heavy metal gate for many years.

To date, the vendors said they have not received an assigned booth and that while they do not want to stop progress, they need to be able to move to an area that provides both space and security.

Observer was unable to reach ministers Weston or Matthew for comment on the vendors’ concern before publication of this article.

However, in Parliament on Friday, Minister Matthew stated: “I can’t wait to lock the gate when the vendors come out,” marking his eagerness to see the facility returning to its former glory days.

He said the West Indies Oil Company (WIOC) which will finance the demolition of the double decker stand, anticipates that work will begin by February 20, 2022.

Over a year ago, the vendors, who all own their stalls, were informed via memo about the ministry’s plans to demolish the stand and rebuild a better fixture.

They have however not been told how long the process will take and how they will fit into these future plans. 

The ARG has served as a landmark cricket venue beginning in the 1970s. It was first constructed to host the first test match in Antigua and Barbuda and has recorded a few historical cricket events since.

In 1994, West Indies batsman Brian Lara broke Sir Garfield Sobers’ 36-year-old world record for the highest score in a Test innings.

It is also the venue where native cricket legend Sir Vivian Richards scored his first century.

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