Tanya Lee | New tracks present many opportunities
It's January already, folks, and the track season is squarely on the horizon. I can already smell the spikes and sweat as all schools and institutions prepare to lay down the gauntlet, both locally and abroad, for 2019.
Of interest is the number of tracks being repaired or built at this time, which brings into focus some of the facility considerations I think should be added to the list as we move towards preparing our island to host more TV and spectator events.
Jamaica College is putting the finishing touches on their mini-stadium on Old Hope Road. This is excellent news for the 'True Blues' as they mount a challenge to Calabar High and Kingston College's hold on first and second place on the track, the only other two schools with synthetic tracks of their own.
JC's track presents myriad possibilities in providing a new income stream for the school's sports programmes. While it will be officially launched in February, a little birdie has told me that it will include lights and stands, which puts it squarely ahead of the other school tracks. JC now becomes a viable option for hosting spectators and made-for-TV sporting events beyond daylight.
On another side of St Andrew, the Stadium East track will be getting a much-needed facelift by way of a brand-new Regupol track. This multimillion=-dollar surface will be money well spent. The Stadium East track, once described by Major Desmon Brown as possibly the most used track on the planet, sees some 400 athletes daily once high school track preparation kicks into overdrive in January. With various institutions from Kingston, including MVP, using the surface for speed work, the new track is both necessary and overdue if Jamaica is to secure spots at the top of the podium at the 2019 global events.
I hope Independence Park will consider a few more facility upgrades to make the venue more spectator and TV friendly given the number of football and track events that are on Jamaica's annual calendar. The seating capacity is just under 2,000, which makes the venue woefully inadequate for spectator events. The lighting, while acceptable for local TV production, doesn't meet international standards for either football or track events.
Over in the western end of the island, the Montego Bay Sports Complex track is currently closed for business as it has deteriorated significantly. The Catherine Hall-based track had long outlived the eight to 10 years that is usually the shelf life of these surfaces as it was laid 17 years ago in 2002. This will pose a challenge to meet organisers as the nearest option for a synthetic surface is G.C. Foster College, all the way in Spanish Town. Unfortunately, the G.C. Foster venue is currently unsuitable for an event beyond 5 p.m. as it has no stadium lights.
NO TRACK SURFACES
Thus, there are no synthetic track surfaces currently in the western end of the island. There are no synthetic surfaces at all in central Jamaica. Sad if one considers that most of Jamaica's global medallists are from either the western or central parts of the island. The likes of Veronica Campbell Brown, Usain Bolt, Michael Frater, Yohan Blake, and Warren Weir all hail from western Jamaica.
On the central side of Jamaica, a track is finally in the works. Elaine Thompson, Omar McLeod, Nesta Carter, Sherone Simpson, Deon Hemmings, and a host of other Olympic medallist hail from central Jamaica, so this is fantastic news.
Hopefully, consideration is given to lighting, spectator seating, cabling, changing rooms, and broadcast facilities that will put us in a better position to host more day-to-night TV broadcasts and spectator friendly events right across the island.