By KHRISNA RUSSELL
Tribune Chief Reporter
THE additional $31m needed to complete the Andre Rodgers Baseball Stadium is part of $1 billion in unfunded obligations facing the government, according to Financial Secretary Simon Wilson.
Mr Wilson said on Friday that the Davis administration had every intention to honour those obligations in a “managed” way within the framework of the budget.
The Christie administration initially contracted Woslee Construction Company to build the stadium for about $24.9m. That figure, Works Minister Alfred Sears said last week, was adjusted to $21.4m then increased to $27.5m after contingency and provisional fees were added.
Mr Sears said construction began in September 2016 and was supposed to last for 15 months, ending in November 2017.
However, years later the stadium remains unfinished.
Asked about Mr Sears’ revelation last week that an additional $31m is now needed to finish the project, Mr Wilson said: “I think you have to go back to the Prime Minister’s supplementary budget presentation.
“The Prime Minister indicated at the time that there was close to $1bn in unfunded obligations for the government. That $31m is a part of that and what the Prime Minister also indicated was that the government was going to honour those obligations in a managed way within the framework of the budget.
“So, I think that’s where the answer is. This was not out of the blue. But really the Prime Minister laid the framework of this during the supplementary budget presentation,” Mr Wilson said during the Office of the Prime Minister’s press briefing on Friday.
Asked whether the huge price tag for the stadium’s construction was expected to yield returns, Mr Wilson said profits were never the reason for building the facility.
“Well, I say this, I don’t know that the stadium (was) supposed to be a profit centre for the government of The Bahamas. I don’t think that was ever the plan. It was designed to have a positive social impact among young persons as well as the wider community.
“So, you can’t always measure investments in terms of profitability. This is why you have taxes and so on and so forth to help offset that to make the society better.
“So, it’s in the framework that whatever is going to be done in the fiscal framework that was announced in the supplementary budget and which will be fully elaborated in the mid-term budget.”
The stadium’s troubles were again brought to the forefront by Mr Sears in the House of Assembly last week.
He said at the time: “To date, $27,438,868.26 has been certified for payment. However, of that amount, there are payment certificates valued at $3,256,650 to date, which have not been paid for lack of funding allocated in the 2021/22 Ministry of Works and Utilities capital budget.”
Mr Sears said the project has been greatly delayed and impacted by a number of issues, including an escalation in the cost of materials, equipment and labour because of the transition between administrations.
“The project has been extended a number of times over approximately 38 months and across two VAT periods, causing the need for additional funding,” he said.
“Construction of ancillary buildings and concrete works, such as (ticket booths, batting cage aprons, roof and structural support for batting cages, etc) - was not priced in the tender process as drawings were incomplete and require $1,109,145.20 for completion. Hardscape and landscape – a provisional sum of $375,000.00 is needed for completion.
“Outstanding change order requests that may be valued at $906,057.69 pending scrutiny.
“Additional funding will be required to complete the stadium in the amount of $31,349,566.28. This includes VAT.”
Mr Sears said the project would have been completed if Woslee Construction Company had been allowed to finish its work.
He said a number of events are scheduled to take place at the stadium when it is finished.
“With the remobilisation of this project, we anticipate that by December 2022, the stadium would be ready for the hosting of the International Series Baseball Tournament,” he said. “We are working towards an early finish of the stadium, Madam Speaker, so that many more athletes such as Jazz Chisholm Jr, Lucius Fox Jr, and Kristian Robinson who are currently on the scene may follow in the footsteps of that great Bahamian Andre Rodgers, who was the first to make it to the major leagues in the sport of baseball.”