By RICARDO WELLS
AS work on the long-promised Andre Rodgers Baseball Stadium advanced last week with the announcement that the government has opted for the installation of a synthetic field at the new facility, I for one issued a round applause from my little corner of the local sporting universe.
It is no secret that this facility - named in honour of the country’s first athlete to play in the major leagues - and the plans and efforts associated with it, has been in the works for some time. Whether a campaign promise or not, I am enthused that this long-awaited dream is finally moving closer to becoming a reality.
For the Bahamas, a country that now boasts 14 players throughout Major League Baseball’s ranks, this $21million, 4,500-seat facility, which is expected to occupy a 24.8 acre plot just east of the Government High School, will quickly become what I like to describe as the “much needed Mecca” for baseball.
If I recall correctly, the facility was torn down at the tail end of the 2002 Christie administration’s regime; now back in the saddle, this incarnation of the Progresssive Liberal Party government seems dedicated to giving us a world-class facility the likes of Antoan Richardson, Lucius Fox and so many other baseball standouts would feel proud to say we rear talent there.
It was Prime Minister Perry Christie who, in July, saluted the likes of Senator Greg Burrows, who started Freedom Farm, as well as the members and representatives of the Bahamas Baseball Federation and the Bahamas Baseball Association, persons who have worked tirelessly to get the stadium off the ground while still ensuring the growth and development of the sport.
To reminisce on his words: “This point has arrived at through the sweat and glorification of baseball by many who have passed on to their eternal reward and others who are still around like Asa Ferguson.”
You see, I know this field doesn’t come without history.
Many celebrate the plans we have now gone over thousands of times, but so many more remember the memories made on that old softball pitch at the Queen Elizabeth Sports Centre – a facility taken away unceremoniously nearly a decade ago with promises that it would be re-built, bigger and better.
In that case, we can all say promise is surely a comfort to a fool.
Baseball and softball purists alike agreed that the move to tear down the old complex, in favour of land space for what was to become the new Thomas A Robinson Stadium and flaky promise for a new one, was certainly an unfair trade-off. Thousands of Bahamian youths can recall days and stretches in which they either played in or cheered on counterparts in that old facility.
Yes bases were stolen, strikes were pitched and titles were won - but, more importantly, memories were made. For the government to make such a move, evidently prematurely, was a mistake and one that ought to have been corrected almost instantly.
The facts are what the facts are. It is time to move away from the political conversation and acknowledge that we all played a role in this debacle. The civic sporting organisations that stood with the government when plans were first revealed, all the way down to the passive baseball and softball fanatics that adopted the view that if they don’t want to rebuild, we will do it on our own.
While I applaud the attitude of the latter, in hindsight I am sure they can admit that their actions only grew the sport in spurts and small circles. The construction of a national field then would have given a level of validity to what the country has produced when it comes to the overall sport.
Woslee Construction, whose bid of $24,956.004, was selected earlier this year, won out over Forbes Construction ($34,077,621); Scorpio/Inline Construction J/V ($29,980,689) and Consolidated Construction Management/Cavalier Construction J/V ($26,017,915).
As proposed, construction efforts on the modern facility are expected to take between six months and a year.
Once completed, in addition to its 4,500 seating capacity, the new Andre Rodgers Baseball Stadium will have two secondary practice fields to the east of the stadium along with locker rooms, meeting rooms, training rooms, vendor spaces, eight luxury boxes, state-of-the-art audio/visual scoreboard and facilities for the sport’s partner, the Bahamas Baseball Federation.
• Ricardo Wells writes Fourth Quarter Press every Monday. Comments to firstname.lastname@example.org