SANTA CRUZ, St Elizabeth - Darin James has a very special reason to be proud of the Treasure Beach Sports Park.
The way he tells it, he was the very first to visualise a sports complex serving the Treasure Beach community on lands formerly owned by his family.
"I had this idea in 2001. I took it to Jason Henzell (head of the Treasure Beach community organisation BREDS) and walked him over here to see for himself... He couldn't believe there was this property right here and he loved the idea," James recalled.
They approached the late Danny Buchanan, then Cabinet minister and Member of Parliament for South West St Elizabeth, who immediately took steps for Government to acquire the property on behalf of the community.
The land was subsequently leased to BREDS which since 2010 has secured and spent $30 million on the development of netball, basketball and tennis courts; a full-sized cricket field with three pitches; an irrigation well with a solar pumping system; bathrooms and changing rooms.
In the latest development, BREDS opened a 2,400-square-foot pavilion sponsored by rum company Wray and Nephew.
Shortly after the recent ribbon-cutting ceremony for the new pavilion, which cost $3.42 million, James, who on the day also participated in a festival cricket game for the Treasure Beach Pirates against the famous House of Lords & Commons Cricket Club, spoke of his elation.
"I am so proud of this (sports park) sometimes my hair stands on my head, it's unbelievable, I take my hat off to Jason (Henzell) for his vision," said James who is transportation manager for Henzell's Jakes Hotel in Treasure Beach. "Not all of us can plan and execute, and Jason is very good at it," said James.
James and the BREDS fraternity insist that the sports park project has a long way to go. Adjacent to the cricket field, a full-sized football field is now under construction with support from sports drink brand Gatorade.
Henzell told the audience at the ribbon-cutting ceremony of plans for additional bathrooms, changing rooms, umpires' rooms, a medical room - all to be built to International Cricket Council (ICC) standards with the aim of attracting international cricket.
The day also marked the official launch of the St Elizabeth Sports Tourism Strategy developed by the parish development committee with funding and assistance from CIDA and the Caribbean Urban Institute. The sports strategy, said Henzell, highlights the importance and "resilience" of sports tourism and its value to the Greater Treasure Beach area, which boasts 505 rooms at 75 properties.
The long-term aim was to lift room occupancy way beyond the current 25 per cent average for most properties, said Henzell.
Tourism Minister Wykeham McNeil was among those hailing the sports tourism strategy as ideal for Treasure Beach.