Approximately twenty Government Officials, among them the Deputy Prime Minister, the Hon. Philip “Brave” Davis, who is also the Minister of Works, and the Minister of Sports, Youth and Culture, the Hon. Daniel Johnson, arrived on Abaco from Nassau the morning of September 16.
In their entourage was the Permanent Secretary for the Ministry of Works, Mr. Colin Higgs, the Ministry of Youth, Mr. Balfour, the Ministry of Sports, Youth and Culture’s Permanent Secretary, Mr. Timothy Munnings, the Director of Sports, Mr. Adam Miller, Assistant Secretary of the Football Association and Mrs. Rosamond Carey, President of BAAA, as well as the engineer for the sports complexes, to mention a few of the authorities who had come to reassure Abaconians that their sporting needs would be fulfilled in the near future and that the long-awaited Sports Complex was finally in the first stage of ground breaking.
The group of officials drove to the Government Complex, gathering in the Conference Room where a meeting was taking place with local stakeholders in sports, education and culture.
The welcome was pronounced by Doriano Swain, a student of Central Abaco Primary School. Administrator Charles Moss hosted the event, introducing the officials as they took turns to explain what was being done for Abaco. The local attendees were to express their concerns and their requests, but not before Minister Johnson addressed the assembly, explaining his vision of Culture, Sports and Arts for The Bahamas. A vision “integrated in one place, one time, one space. Facilities were developed in Nassau; we are trying to do similar facilities on some of the Family Islands,” he said.
As an interlude, a group of Hope Town Primary School students demonstrated their talent in singing and drum playing.
The Minister then resumed his address, saying that on Abaco there will be a multi-purpose area in Cooper’s Town so it would be appropriate to create something in the South as well, for the children. He went on introducing his technical team. Mr. Nick Dean, with Simmons Construction, mentioned visiting Moore’s Island every week to work on the Sports Academy. He spoke about the planned dormitory that is being built and will accommodate not only emerging athletes, but there will also be space for visiting families. The sport focus there will be Track & Field.
Describing the Central Abaco Sports Complex, the engineer, Mr. Dexter Williams, mentioned that the survey was completed and that adjustments had to be made so the grounds could accommodate the building. Besides a track that will be covered with a special material, a 50m pool is also included in the plans.
There are also plans to add a soccer field next to the complex. Mr. Adam Miller said that he had been in touch with FIFA, the international football association, which had agreed to fund the project. FIFA would partner with local contractors to install a soccer turf field that could be used not only for local events, but also international games.
Mrs. Rosamond Carey, President of The Bahamas Sports Federation, said that she will make sure that the project is completed as Abaco has a lot of talent in Track & Field.
“As an athlete, I am excited about what’s happening in the sports landscape,” said Minister Johnson. “We are becoming the sports destination of the world. I’d like to see the introduction of Bahamas Youth Games.”
The floor was then handed over to stakeholders in various areas of sports and culture. Funding was the main request after the promise that the sport complex would be built.
Mr. Jamal McIntosh, a music teacher at Abaco Central High School and involved in Junkanoo, deplored the lack of funding. Ms. Christine Jenoure, a Coach at the same school would like to see more updates in what is happening in the sports community of the nation. She was advised to explore the site http://www.nsa-bahamas.com where information, videos, and photos can be shared.
As the prominent aspect of the Bahamian culture, Junkanoo was mentioned at several occasions. Mr. Stubbs, a Junkanoo Committee member, would like to see Junkanoo included in the schools’ curriculum. Mr. Colon Curry, a Junkanoo Group Leader, would like to return to having the local leaders elect their own committee. He explained, “Junkanoo on Abaco was successful until the committee was appointed by the Government.” It did not seem to be a problem for the Minister.
“Elect members and send me a recommendation,” he said.
The Abaco Swimming Association wanted to make sure that a pool will be included in the complex. Boxing Coach Daren Miller would also like to see a boxing facility included. Ms. Yasmin Glinton’s concern that there was no space for raw talent in dancing, music, or arts to develop, was answered that she should contact local government committees to request the use of community centers.
Concerns were also expressed by representatives of South Abaco, among them Administrator Zephaniah Newbold and Committee Chairperson Jacklyn Estevez who complained that there were no facilities for the children of the South. They were promised a recreation park and nature walks.
Administrator Whelma Colebrook was complimented for her efforts to support the development of sports in North Abaco, efforts illustrated by the weekend sporting events which opening ceremony was to take place in Treasure Cay that evening.
The Deputy Prime Minister concluded the meeting by thanking the audience for their patience.
“Your participation speaks of your concerns. Abaco will not be left behind,” he assured. “Sports, Culture, Arts, Dance, Junkanoo are human capital.”
Davis also mentioned the concerns of the Government that Bahamians did not have a healthy life style.
“The life style has to change, so when speaking about sporting facilities, we talk about developing athletes, but we are also providing opportunities for people to walk, jog, and keep healthy.”