Rehab of field at Catherine Hall delays return of football
The wait continues for football to return to the Montego Bay Sports Complex in Catherine Hall, St James, after deputy mayor of Montego Bay, Councillor Richard Vernon, revealed the difficulties in the rehabilitation of the playing surface which has delayed the reopening.
The St James Municipal Corporation (STJMC), who has oversight of the multi-purpose stadium, started the $7-million project in July expecting to complete in October. The STJMC hopes to resume operation in November.
However, Vernon told the Jamaica Observer that work still needs to be done after facing several issues over the last few weeks.
“One is from a technical standpoint, pertaining to the equipment that we had to use to execute the rehabilitation,” he said. “Another is from a climatic standpoint, we have to depend on the usage of water but also the right weather conditions to facilitate the growth of the grass. Some things we have control of, some things we don’t, and we have to put the best measures in place so that we can have it in a state of readiness as quickly as possible.”
Despite the setbacks, Vernon says that the STJMC has not exceeded the $7-million budget for the project.
Vernon says the Jamaica Football Federation wanted the stadium to host the Reggae Girlz’s Concacaf W Gold Cup qualifier against Panama on November 29.
“They reached out to say they’d like to host the Reggae Girlz game there, but with our most ambitious timeline it could [have been] possible, but there’s certain things we have no control over so we have to have a conservative timeline in place,” he said.
“It makes no sense that we put in all the work and investment only to destroy what we have done over that period because we’re a bit hasty in trying to host a game. We want it to be a proper pitch, a proper venue that can give you the quality that we promised and committed to initially.”
However, Vernon is hopeful that football can make a return before the end of 2023 after discussions with the Inter-secondary Schools Sports Association (ISSA).
“We are about 70 per cent complete. We are waiting for some final things to be done and then we’re well on our way to host the first game since we closed down for rehabilitation earlier this year. Our most conservative time is the first week of December. Our most ambitious time would be the final week of November.
“Perhaps not the Champions Cup but the Dacosta Cup final, Olivier Shield, and Ben Francis Cup final. A representative from ISSA reached out, and Cornwall College is still in the competition, so you never know what can happen.”
Vernon says the STJMC remains ambitious in facilitating top football matches at the stadium in the coming months.
“There are a number of things we have to look at and consider, but we’re doing what we need to do to ensure we can host games for national football and premier league games because it has always been a venue available for all those competitions,” he said.
“We have nothing to hide. We want games to return to the stadium and we are doing the best we can under the given circumstances to bring it back to that level of quality.”
The last high-profile game played at the Mobay Sports Complex was last March when the Reggae Boyz lost 1-0 to Trinidad and Tobago, with Head Coach Heimir Hallgrimsson saying after the match that he was unhappy with the state of the surface.
New Montego Bay United owner, Yoni Epstein, recently said that he wanted to take full control of the complex and make it their permanent home ground for the Wray & Nephew Jamaica Premier League, moving away from Wespow Park.