Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Our Tarouba stadium dilemma

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Mark Fraser

 FOR 15 years now, a notorious going-nowhere project in Tarouba, south Trinidad, has been a billion-dollar fiasco to which the Brian Lara name has been unhappily and inappropriately attached.

From the findings of yet another review and update of the complex (initially targeted for completion in 2007, in time for the Cricket World Cup hosted in the West Indies), the People’s Partnership Government and State builder UDeCOTT will decide on whether to complete the project or to avoid throwing more good money after bad.

With the latest architectural, structural, mechanical, electrical, and civil survey data in hand, the UDeCOTT board has apparently made recommendations on how to proceed, even if another completion timeline has not yet been identified.

It will be for the Cabinet to decide on the advisability of committing an estimated additional $190 million more to finish the job.

Whether completed or abandoned, the Tarouba project will remain an object lesson in boom-time, energy-dollar, governmental over-ambition and underperformance.

An early decision will not only save face nationally and put a final cap on spending, but also relieve any embarrassment suffered by Trinidad and Tobago’s illustrious cricketing hero, to whose honour the ill-fated Tarouba complex had so long ago been dedicated.

But after spending that vast amount of money it would be pure folly not to complete it, in one form or another.

Whether this means that the plans for all the other intended facilities at the Tarouba Sporting Complex—an Olympic-size swimming pool, a world-class cycling facility, a school for athletes, and the cricket academy—are abandoned, the main structure should be completed once and for all.

So rather than be left with a massive eyesore—which at first glance looks like it is ready to accommodate some manner of sporting endeavour—that will haunt every taxpayer to their grave, the powers-that-be should do what is necessary to get the job done.

Even if it is limited to a venue for schoolchildren, both primary and secondary, to hold their annual cricket championships, at least it would be put to some use and not be a constant reminder of the egotistical excesses of ill-advised leaders.

It would indeed be an eternal shame if after reaching that advanced state of construction that it is decided to jettison it all together.

No country can afford to so easily shrug its shoulders and decide that enough has been expended on this facility and just leave it to be overgrown by shrubbery.

Of course, whatever purpose is found for the standing structure, it has to be ensured that it is safe and practical and those who use it are not at any risk.  

At the same time, though, if the decision is taken to go ahead and complete the stadium, it should not be allowed to become another feeding frenzy for unscrupulous contractors.

A very tight budget should be implemented and there should be strict oversight of the final stages of construction, in a timeframe that should not be extended.

Some good must finally come out of this national symbol of shame, and not a minute too soon.