By Neto Baptiste
Plans for the upgrading of the Antigua Recreation Grounds (ARG) have not been abandoned.
This is according to sports minister, Daryll Matthew, who said there have been recent talks with the Antigua and Barbuda Football Association (ABFA) who holds a lease on the property and that, in conjunction, with regional and international partners, will spearhead the process.
“A plan has been outlined to us by the Antigua and Barbuda Football Association which, in its first stage, involves bringing in a person through their regional body CONCACAF that has expertise in the renovation of facilities,” he said.
“So, they would give some guidelines and recommendations about what should and could be done with the Antigua Recreation Grounds and once that is done, approval would be sought between the parties with that vested interest ie, the government and the lessee, which is the Antigua and Barbuda Football Association, and once we’re there then the renovation works will start.”
Both the government and the football association came under recent public scrutiny regarding the condition of the historic venue.
Matthew believes that had it not been for the restraints brought on by the Covid-19 pandemic, plans for the facility may have been much further along.
“I think what is lost on most persons is that we have been robbed of an entire year because of Covid-19 and I can see persons already rolling their eyes and saying ‘you blame everything on COVID’, but it’s not an excuse, it’s a reason. It’s a very valid reason because for most of 2020 nothing could have been done in any of these spheres. Much like we’ve gotten YASCO back on track, the same thing will now happen where the Antigua Recreation Grounds is concerned. We will be back on track and we will have that planning process commencing, I would say, almost immediately,” the sports minister said.
Matthew revealed also that discussions with vendors are ongoing regarding the planned dismantling of the WIOC double-decker stand.
“The process is being put on pause until the vendors have been relocated. We’ve met with the vendors, we’ve identified where and how they’re going to be relocated. That is being finalised by the Ministry of Works and so once that relocation is done successfully, then the dismantling will start,” he said.
Recent photos and videos have surfaced showing the poor condition of the playing surface at the famous venue.
One of Antigua and Barbuda’s legendary cricketers in Sir Viv Richards, scored the fastest Test match century off 56 balls against England in 1986 at the venue. It was also where Brian Lara twice set the record for highest individual Test innings, scoring 375 in 1994 and the current record of 400 not out in 2004, both times against England.