FIVE years and a quarter-billion dollars later, the National Academy for the Performing Arts (NAPA) south campus was officially opened yesterday, as a gift to the country on its 50th Independence anniversary.
The 800-seat main theatre, packed to capacity for the function, burst into applause when the previous People's National Movement (PNM) government was recognised by Arts and Multiculturalism Minister Dr Lincoln Douglas, for conceptualising the idea to construct the facility in San Fernando.
Construction at the corner of Rienzi Kurton Highway and Todd Street, San Fernando, began in 2007 as part of a series of mega-projects approved by then prime minister Patrick Manning and overseen by the Calder Hart-headed Urban Development Corporation of Trinidad and Tobago (UDeCOTT).
The facility, built by Shanghai Construction Group, had a price tag of $252 million, but was plagued by delays and cost overruns. No PNM Members of Parliament were present at the opening ceremony.
Minister of Public Administration Carolyn Seepersad-Bachan, Attorney General Anand Ramlogan, Minister of Community Development Winston "Gypsy" Peters, Congress of the People leader Prakash Ramadhar, Senate vice-president Lyndira Oudit, deputy speaker of the House of Representatives Nela Khan and San Fernando Mayor Navi Muradali were among the dignitaries.
Douglas said: "I am terribly excited about this opportunity at this time. I have the distinct pleasure and honour to welcome you all to the NAPA south campus. Many will say this is long overdue. I know it was hard to pass everyday and see this great facility sitting here and you keep asking yourself why it is not open yet. When I became Minister I made a promise to you that you will have this facility open by Republic Day and we have come close."
Douglas promised to continue to collaborate with all stakeholders for the development of arts and culture.
The opening ceremony began with a parade of masqueraders outside the NAPA south campus, along with tassa drumming and steelpan.
Inside the main performing theatre, a concert performance was delivered by the Southernaires Choir, led by Joy Caesar. The choir performed Bless this House Independence Medley, telling stories of San Fernando.
The Tri Murti Dance Company performed "Show Your Love" and Embacadere Folk Performers performed patriotic dances, while Presentation College Mixed Choir sang "For the Beauty of Earth Sing Alleluia, Clap Your Hands".
Digicel Rising Star 2010 winner Neval Chatelal, Hollis Wright and calypsonians Marsha Chales, Erphaan Alves and Black Stalin were well appreciated by the audience.
The NAPA south campus includes a performing college, performing theatre, parking for 200 vehicles and an advertising and lighting tower.