The National Stadium at Independence Park, Kingston, was built in 1962, the year Jamaica gained independence from Britain. Other than some decent upgrades for last year’s Boys and Girls Athletic Championships, the stadium has largely remained unchanged.
The case for rebuilding
There are 5 reasons I can give to support the immediate (next 2 years) need for a new stadium instead of just “patching up” the current one.
1. Safety Concerns — a 50-year old infrastructure poses safety risks, despite the recent patchwork/renovation.
2. Soccer/Football — The Reggae Boyz call the National Stadium “the office” and play most of their games there. In fact, there was a period of time where they didn’t lose a single game at “the office“. High school matches are also played there and many students descend on these grounds each fall, cheering on their favorite team.
3. Track & Field — The Jamaica Invitational is at World challenge status and hope to gain meet the IAAF’s lucrative Diamond League certification. Of course the Jamaica Invitational could meet Diamond League status without a stadium upgrade but it certainly would help keep that status since the talent is not going anywhere, that is with the annual Boys and Girls Championships held at the same venue.
4. Capacity — The Grand Stand seats about 5000 of the 35000 capacity and could increase to 10,000. There are 11 suites and 1 “super suite”. This could increase to 20 + 2. Basically this would increase the capacity to a more respectable 41,000.
5. Aesthetics — “The stadium looks old and run-down” was the complaint from a close relative who visited Jamaica a few weeks ago. Apparently, that’s what others are saying also when they look at the exterior of such a historic stadium, as far as Jamaicans are concerned. If Jamaicans are not impressed, the tourists who come to see the talent at this venue will not be impressed with the structure either. People like aesthetically-pleasant structures.
The case against rebuilding
Likewise, there are 5 reasons I can see why we would face problems getting a new stadium.
1. Money — How does Jamaica raise the money to build a stadium that could cost them at least 250 million US dollars? Who will sponsor this? The Jamaican government doesn’t have the kind of money to build a top-of-the-line stadium. If Jamaicans decide to borrow from other countries, who? Also, would the Jamaican people support such a venture?
2. Money — Where will the money come from? This could be reasons 1-5 instead of 1 and 2…
3. Location — where do we build this new stadium? Is there a prime but accessible location for it?
4. Replacement — a stadium of this size would take about 2 years to build. Do we demolish and rebuild? If so, where will all the activities (e.g. major international soccer matches, track & field meets, etc.) be held while the rebuilding is taking place?
5. Ride it out — with the renovations of last year (2011), can we spend another $25 million USD to improve the aesthetics (especially the exterior) and ride it out for another 10 years. Jamaica turns 50 this year and no stadium can be rebuilt this year, so the 60th anniversary is as good a target for a new stadium as I can see. If we gain start looking for funding and support now, obtain the funding by 2019, and start breaking ground by 2020, it will be done before 2022.
What do you think?