Fri | Sep 17, 2021

Major losses delay Sabina Park development

Published:Wednesday | March 24, 2021 | 12:12 AMDaniel Wheeler/Staff Reporter
Groundsmen prepare a pitch at Sabina Park ahead of a Test match between the West Indies and India in August 2019.
Groundsmen prepare a pitch at Sabina Park ahead of a Test match between the West Indies and India in August 2019.
Francis
Francis
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A $40-million loss, which was in part influenced by the ongoing impact of the coronavirus pandemic, has forced the handlers of the island’s premier cricketing venue, Sabina Park, to reassess plans for the redevelopment of the facility. In 2018, the...

A $40-million loss, which was in part influenced by the ongoing impact of the coronavirus pandemic, has forced the handlers of the island’s premier cricketing venue, Sabina Park, to reassess plans for the redevelopment of the facility.

In 2018, the Jamaica Cricket Association (JCA) unveiled an ambitious proposal, which would see the development of the venue, which was established in 1895, as a multipurpose facility geared towards greater year-round usage and profitability.

The plans included provisions for a sports lounge, a three-star facility to house teams and guests, as well as considerations for a walking and jogging track on the periphery of the field as well as meeting facilities.

However, Cricket Operations Officer at the JCA, Courtney Francis, says that the pandemic has resulted in a rethink of their approach in undertaking those endeavours, which, he added, has been further complicated by Sabina Park’s own financial problems, as a result of a loss in rental revenue from sporting, social and other events at the venue.

In 2018, the JCA told The Gleaner that the venue earns approximately $4 million a year from parties and other events at the park.

“Without activities in the park, it has impacted all facets of our (operations), everything has to be delayed because they too would have been impacted, and so revenue has been dented all around,” said Francis. “So it’s now a reset and for us to renegotiate and re-engage; and even in some of the instances where we had signed contracts, we have to renegotiate them and to allow our sponsors to [adjust].”

SEVERELY AFFECTED

Sabina Park Holdings (SPH) CEO Anthony Walter also underlined that the organisation has been severely affected as a consequence of the hiatus, and while they have always explored options in the past to make certain improvements from their end, the current situation has created an opportunity to do so.

“We are an organisation that basically is run on income generated by our events. I have not had an event since February 2020. So we have seen a significant fall-off in our income, and even our box holders are a bit sensitive,” Walter said. “Our job right now is to work as assiduously as we can to get COVID-19 (under control).”

SPH is equally owned by the JCA and the Kingston Cricket Club.

Walter says that, normally, any discussions with the JCA would take place between August and October, during their break period; however, he says that talks are ongoing regarding the situation.

Meanwhile, Francis added that any reset of plans for Sabina Park’s redevelopment will involve Walter’s office and that a new plan will have to be crafted because of the evolving situation.

“I know both (of us) would have to meet to ensure whatever reset there is. It has to be a new plan, because it’s going to take a while to get back your reserves. We are at a stage now where the level of uncertainty is more certain than any certainty,” Francis quipped.

Sabina Park’s event hiatus could soon expire if Jamaica is selected to host an international cricket series sometime this year. Australia, Pakistan as well as South Africa are scheduled to tour the West Indies this summer and Jamaica has indicated an interest in hosting a series.

Walter said that securing an international tour will help to ease the financial situation currently being experienced.

daniel.wheeler@gleanerjm.com