Recommendation made for private management of Montego Bay Sports Complex
An advisory board led by Montego Bay businessman Jason Russell, tasked with preparing an operational and management proposal for the Montego Bay Sports Complex, run by the St James Municipal Corporation, has recommended that the facility be managed by a private entity. This follows years of management issues in which the complex has been largely inactive, sapping public funds by costing the St James Municipal Corporation $50 million annually, while failing to generate significant revenue.
“We have presented to the corporation that the management and operation of the complex should be private,” Russell confirmed. “I have recommended as the chairman that they privatise the operation and charge a lease, lease it out to somebody.”
News of this recommendation also comes on the heels of a recent declaration by the new ownership of the Montego Bay United (MBU) football club that they want to take over the complex and make it their home ground in the near future.
The new ownership represents a partnership between Yoni Epstein, founder and chairman of itel and Dr Germain Spencer, owner of Baywest Wellness Clinic. Epstein has assumed the position of club chairman while Spencer is its new president. Both Montego Bay-based businessmen bring a new level of financial investment that would be good news for the sports complex and multi-purpose stadium should they be able to realise their aims of acquiring it.
Asked about the recent announcement of MBU’s intentions, Russell believes they would be a viable candidate but stressed that there should be a tendering process that looks at various candidates.
“I mean [the process] should be transparent,” he insisted. “I don’t think it should be the first man or the only man that you know. It should be publicised like any other entity and you look through and if you are giving somebody with home-grown roots here an advantage then you do that, that’s fine. That’s also part of your tender process.”
“As far as I am concerned, it still should be tendered as a sporting complex with many [sports] disciplines,” Russell said. “It needs a pool, it needs some tennis courts. You know, there are some disciplines that have already shown interest in participating in build-outs and management. I think all of that should still stay on the table. That’s my recommendation.”
In terms of various sports disciplines, the multi-purpose stadium, in addition to its football field, is home to the only synthetic track in western Jamaica. A report from The Gleaner in August related that the track deteriorated and was declared unsafe for athletes five years ago, disrupting school sports programmes, athletic development and events, while sparking concern from sporting interests.
“It should not just be a football field,” Russell commented. “It needs investment for the track to come back. It needs investment for the field to come back to what it should be. So it needs a private entity that can raise some capital and build it out and maintain it.”
The new chairman of MBU, Yoni Epstein, disclosed that the club’s vision for the Montego Bay Sports Complex, should they be granted the opportunity to manage it, is aligned with accommodating a diverse range of sports disciplines.
“Our intentions are to bring all western sporting events to the multipurpose stadium once we are to roll out our business plans,” Epstein said. “We believe that the region’s sports is under-delivered and our business plans will bring those initiatives back.”
Additionally, the club chairman revealed that MBU plans to transform the complex into a versatile community hub, facilitating access for running and walking groups, constructing tennis courts, establishing an Olympic-sized swimming pool for local swimming clubs, and organising stadium tours for both the community and tourists around the history of football in Jamaica and Montego Bay United.
The objective is to elevate the stadium into a first-rate facility for both local and international purposes, encompassing entertainment options alongside multifaceted sports offerings complemented by a diverse food and beverage experience.
“We are currently engaging all avenues to fund this venture as it is right for the community,” Epstein stated.
When asked if concrete discussions have taken place for the acquisition of the stadium, he responded, “I would say that conversations are ongoing and we hope to present a full proposal in the near term so that our home matches come January 2024 will be there.”
CEO of the St James Municipal Corporation, Naudia Crosskill emphasised the point that a formal proposal has not yet been made by MBU and therefore, she would not speak on these recent developments.
“The only comment I could give you is to say that the private interest would have to submit a proposal to the council for consideration,” she said. “Until that is done, we can’t speak about anyone running the facility. Something has to be presented to us first and at present the council has nothing in front of it to deliberate on.”
“You know that there are also procedures as it relates to government facilities,” she added. “But we haven’t even reached there yet. I am saying the first step would have to be the interested party presenting a proposal to council for consideration and you know that council makes decisions through committees. So this proposal would have to be presented to a committee and from there decisions are made because that’s just the make-up of council. Decisions are done through committees.”
In the meantime, Russell says he has not yet received a response from the municipal corporation regarding his advisory board’s recommendation that the Montego Bay Sports Complex be run by a private entity.