By Neto Baptiste
Minister of Sports Daryll Matthew has welcomed news by World Athletics that the country’s lone track & field facility, the YASCO Sports Complex, is now internationally certified as a Class 2 Athletics Facility.
Speaking with Observer media following Wednesday’s news, Matthew said that although the process has been a frustrating one for all involved, his ministry, and by extension the government, remained confident that the goal would have been achieved.
“We certainly recognise that these processes take time and although the public may have been a little impatient and rightfully so because it’s been a long outstanding project, we recognise that these things just have to go through the processes in getting the track certified and so while we went full steam ahead a year and a half ago and got the civil works done, we had another year’s delay because of Covid-19 and then it had to go through the process. It may have seem protracted but here we are and I am sure the athletes are happy that any time ran there in an official meet can now be counted as an official, recognised time worldwide,” he said.
Matthew also revealed that he has been presented with a master plan for the redevelopment of YASCO by the committee put in place to manage the facility. He noted government recently reiterated its commitment to seeing the project through by approving funding for the purchase of equipment critical in ensuring the overall effectiveness of the facility when hosting meets.
“They [committee] have presented a preliminary budget and they are doing some fine-tuning of that budget and once that is done I will invite them to make a presentation to the Cabinet of Antigua and Barbuda and to the National Olympic Committee so that we could start to put further resources in place,” the minister said.
“I could also say that today [July 21] Cabinet passed a resolution to ensure that the electronic equipment that is required to assess adequate times so things like the clock, the photo-finish equipment and so on that is required, the Cabinet passed a resolution to expedite the purchase of these items,” he added.
The sports minister pointed out, however, that the first phase of the project would not have been a success without the assistance of key partners like the National Olympic Committee and others.
“The NOC gave up an opportunity to build a headquarters and asked that the funds be used instead to support YASCO. The ministry of finance made the resources available, in excess of $1.5 million to have the civil works done and of course, the Antigua and Barbuda Athletics Association who also gave some support. While there are some persons who may have thought we were making excuses because of Covid and we were deliberately not in a position to do anything, I am happy to prove them wrong and to show that there is a difference between an excuse and a reason,” he said.
The second phase in the redevelopment of YASCO would involve the erection of stands, a perimeter fence around the track and bathroom and changing facilities. Reports also indicate that the body is currently looking at the installation of a warm-up track.