After 24 years of hosting thousands of sporting and cultural events, the doors of the Sir Garfield Sobers Gymnasium were closed for the last time yesterday evening. That is because the island’s sole multi-purpose sports facility is up for a face-lift.
Set at a projected 15-month time-frame, Wildey Gymnasium or the ‘Gym’ as it is affectionately called will be undergoing several renovations and refurbishments through the bilateral agreements between Barbados and the People’s Republic of China. During a ceremony held at the facility yesterday, it was revealed that the project, which carries a price tag of $19 million, will be undertaken by China State Construction Engineering Corporation (SCEC).
Speaking during the ceremony, Direct Manager of SCEC Overseas Company, Yang Lin, in addition to highlighting some of the improvements on the cards for the gymnasium, stated that the facility had its place in Barbadian society and had become a corner-stone of it. “Sport brings people together and the completion of this structure some 23 years ago marked the end of an era that saw no indoor sports facilities here in Barbados. It has become the major sport and cultural centre since then. This gym has played an important part in moulding many people’s lives in sport and culture alike,” he said.
With demolition expected to start as early as next month, waterproofing and repairs to the roof as well as relaying of the floor are some of the changes in store. There will also be upgrades to the air conditioning systems and electrical and water distribution systems. As it relates to security, mobile conferencing, video surveillance and fire alarms systems are all in the works. The facility’s energy bill is expected to be drastically cut by the time it reopens in mid-2017 as they will be going green with a new solar power generation and lighting set-up.
Delivering the feature address, Minister of Culture, Sport and Youth, Stephen Lashley outlined the gymnasium’s beginnings stating that it started with agreements in 1986 before being handed over in 1992. He also went on to regale the audience with examples of its usage throughout the years before highlighting its importance to the relation between the two countries.
“Now some 24 years later, we are entering yet another phase with this facility once more. The People’s Republic of China being involved. What this says to us is that bilateral relations between Barbados and the People’s Republic of China are alive and well. These good relations between our two countries have not only been manifested by the gift of this gymnasium and its maintenance and refurbishment, but by the use of this facility to foster cultural ties between our two nations,” he said.
The staff of Gymnasium Ltd. will not feel the pinch of the closure of the facility as arrangements have been made to have them accommodated at Kensington Oval while indoor sports and some cultural events can be held at the retrofitted Armstrong Building on Fontabelle. (MP)