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The Blue Concas pitches on the Civic Center Print E-mail
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Thursday, 10 August 2017 00:00

The PUP Blue Concas Syndrome has started to flare up again. This time it is over the almost completed brand new Belize Civic Center, that has them all hot and flustered. In particular it is the plans for the management of the Civic Center that is causing them to go on the attack. This all started a few weeks ago when the Belize Infrastructure Limited (BIL) sent out the following PRESS RELEASE:

“The new Belize Civic Center Sport Complex is nearing completion. With international standard volleyball and basketball courts, bleachers, concession rooms, locker facilities, stage venue, tickets booths, a skateboard park, gym area and exterior five-a-side football pitch and many other amenities. The complex will help to transform Belize’s sporting and cultural life. The Government of Belize, through Belize Infrastructure Limited (BIL), will soon be looking for experienced and dedicated private partner to take on the maintenance and operations of the Belize Civic Center Sports Complex. Belize Infrastructure Limited will therefore be inviting potentially interested and qualified parties - with the technical capacity to deliver the full scope of services and financial capacity to fund the necessary outfits as well as any capital improvements - to express their interest in participating in the procurement for the Management Contract. This Release serves as early notice for any initial preparation to interested and qualified parties, now alerted to this opportunity, and expect to see the Request for Expressions of Interest from Belize Infrastructure Limited  forthcoming.”

The release goes on to include a contact email address.

Now apparently the Belize Basketball Federation (BBF ) has taken issue with the government’s intent of doing the things stated in the release. They are so up in arms that they have written to the Prime Minister of Belize, expressing their concern, saying that the private sector concession of the civic will economically weaken the sporting organizations as they would not have open access to train and entertain matches but would rather have to incur financial costs to do so despite it being a public facility.  The 3-page letter to the Prime Minister went on to note, quote, “This is a timely and critical issue for the BBF as we are now entering the peak of the international competition cycle for basketball and it is our intention to field national teams in the upcoming Central American Games in December of this year, the Commonwealth Games in April next year and the Central American & Caribbean Games in August next year. In addition to this, there is now a new FIBA Olympic qualifying competition format which commences in November this year and kicks into full swing from 2018 onwards. This will feature home and away series for regional play thereby making it mandatory for each country to host games.” The BBF went on to note that should the Government proceed in this fashion, it would make Belize the only country in the region to have a publicly owned facility leased to private sector parties for management. The BBF did commend the Government on the state of the art facility but added that the sporting community as a prime stakeholder has not yet been consulted on this matter and it is their hope that this is not a done deal and further consideration would be had on the matter.  The BBF did suggest that management of the facility be shared under a single entity comprised of the National Sports Council on one hand, and an umbrella grouping of national sporting federations.  The letter is dated August 3, 2017 and was carbon copied to the Minister of Sports, Hon. Patrick Faber, and the National Sports Council along with other sporting organizations.

We don’t know that BBF or any of the sporting associations in Belize have any sort of in house expertise to manage any such complex. What we do know is that many of these bodies have problems with even managing their own affairs and often it is left up to government to bail them out .Certainly we know that the National Sport Council does not presently have that sort of capacity or expertise to manage and develop such an asset . However as the Press Release indicated, there is nothing that would cause a group such as the BBF from tendering a bid for the management of facility. That group’s bid would then be given the same consideration as other bids. Readers may perhaps be a bit confused at this time because, we have not made any connection between this action and the PUP. So let us clear up that issue right away. Hon Senator Paul Thompson, who is also the BBF President, is the PUP connection. If readers will recall , Paul Thompson is the defeated PUP Albert Constituency Candidate from the 2015 election and as far as we know he is still their candidate in Albert. He also sits on the PUP National Party Council by virtue of him being a candidate. He is also a member of the PUP Parliamentary Caucus by virtue of him being one of their Senators. Paul also was once a director of  BIL’S  Board of Directors. He was a member during the planning stages of the Belize Civic Center and was an integral part of all the discussions and decisions that were made in regards to the Civic Center. Paul was the person who brought the FIBA Consultant who gave BIL expert advice in regards to the BASKETBALL arrangements and installations for the complex. He did so as the President of BBF. For the BBF to now turn around and pretend that they had no idea of the plans BIL had for the Management and Maintenance of the facility  is something that is disingenuous . He as the BBF  President was on that Board specifically to look after the interest of basketball and basketball related activities. Why did he not at the time address those concerns even before the old Civic Center was torn down?

The timing of this latest outburst has to be political. As proof that Paul Thompson always knew what the plans were in regards to basketball at the facility. Let’s go back to a portion of an interview he gave Channel 7’s Jules Vasquez, in October 2013, which is just under 4 years ago and a little over 2 year before construction started . Below is the interaction between him and Jules.

Jules Vasquez :

“Will that finally have us with a world class facility where we can without embarrassment host regional competitions and we can expect that young people will feel that well, at least someone wants me to play sports.”

Paul Thompson, Belize Infrastructure Limited :

“I believe that’s where my presence on this board, as the member of the basketball federation can assist because FIBA has resources and FIBA can provide us with institutional knowledge about what are the requirements to have a multi-purpose facility that can house international competition and international events.”

Jules Vasquez :

“Is there anyone saying that, you know what, we can’t build another oven?”

Paul Thompson, Belize Infrastructure Limited :

“I don’t see building a facility for $30 million and not having air conditioning. If it doesn’t have air conditioning then that means it doesn’t pass the standard in the international standards, so I see air conditioning in there.”

We also found the proof that the plans for the management of the facility, were made public even before the first shovel was used on the project, we go back to a September 24 ,2015 interview Ms Christy Mastery gave to Channel 7.

Daniel Ortiz:

“The situation with the civic center is that an entire generation of youths, their talent has been squandered due to the improper management of the facility especially civic, that isn’t your problem or your fault because you came after. It happened before you but it appears as though it is taking too long to get started and it will take a while before it is finished. What assurances can you give to those citizens, the Belize City residence who want a proper facility erected now and anytime later is already too late?”

Christy Mastry - GM, Belize Infrastructure Ltd. :

“Well the truth is you are right. It is not necessarily the fault of the team on the ground to date but it is certainly a burden and it’s certainly a major issue that resonates loudly with myself, the design team and with the government and so we know that this time around we have to put in place from day 1 when shovels hit the ground, a structure that will allow for a management company that will come in and generate revenue so its enticing for some sort of private sector management entity. This building is far too big for us to be naive enough to believe that it can just sit there and run itself. So we really need to focus some energies on the operations of this facility going forward because we really believe it is going to be a complete asset to the country of Belize and particularly to Belize City and open up not just for the athletes but also for our entertainment and cultural events as well. So definitely it’s something that is on our radar, not just the design of the building but how it will operate in the long run.”

Then the concern of the BBF as to whether basketball will have a place at the New Civic Center can also be answered and was actually answered by Ms Mastry, when in response to a question from Jules Vasquez she responded with the following statement.”

“Depending on the use, of course we said anything for the elite will definitely be here. Anything with the basketball federation will be housed here as well. But as we said, I think that there can be a management scheme that certainly we are certain that higher yield events can help to offset having certain days that it is open to the juniors and the high schools.”

In incorporating BIL the Prime Minister and your government ensured that the board of directors consisted of a mix of PRIVATE and PUBLIC SECTOR PERSONS . This was how the board was designed and it was done that way to try and avoid exactly what the PUP is trying to do at this time.

Minister of Works: Chair

Minister if Sports: Co-chair

Chief Engineer

Fin Sec

Chamber nominee

Unions nominee

CEO in the Office of the Prime Minister

The Prime Minister recommendations: were Paul Thompson and Allan Sharp .

Allan stepped down when he sought to look at potentially consulting for projects as engineer because that could have been a conflict of interests.

Paul Thompson stepped down after his decision to go into politics.

As mentioned before it was Thompson who brought in the FIBA consultant who helped working towards the design changes that were done. So Thompson cannot deny playing an integral part in all decisions. Replacement nominees from Prime Minister were Esther Ayuso, bringing her professional background in architecture and construction and CEO Masson. Once again the PUP played their hand and lost.

Last Updated on Thursday, 10 August 2017 16:11