Process underway to disband Sabina Park Holdings
FRANCIS... it's a work in progress now to dissolve it (Photo: Observer file)

Jamaica Cricket Association (JCA) Chief Executive Officer Courtney Francis says that Sabina Park Holdings (SPH) is now going through a process of being disbanded. This, he says, means the restructuring of the ownership of certain aspects of the stadium.

SPH is jointly owned by the JCA and the Kingston Cricket Club (KCC), which also uses the compound for its events, to manage the maintenance of facilities and equipment.

"It [SPH] is not yet dissolved," Francis told the Jamaica Observer. "Its function has been reduced, so a lot of the things that Sabina Park usually managed are now being managed by the JCA and Kingston Cricket Club. They are in negotiations now as to how we're going to deal with the equipment, the spaces, and those things. It's a work in progress now to dissolve it."

There have been calls to do upgrades to the stadium recently, after the International Cricket Council (ICC) announced last month that no bid was received from Jamaica for Sabina Park to host games during its Men's T20 World Cup, being hosted by the United States of America and the West Indies next year.

Sport Minister Olivia Grange said recently that the decision not to bid came after a cost-benefit analysis which showed that bidding cost and upgrades to the stadium would cost over $450 million, which was said to be too high.

JCA Vice-President Donovan Bennett then asked the Government to consider upgrades to the venue to ensure it has a chance to host games in a tri-nation cricket series next year.

But the JCA had its own plans in 2018 to do a major renovation to the stadium as part of a measure, it said at the time, that would create opportunities for it to earn its own revenue and be able to fund its own maintenance. These plans, the JCA said, were also in line with a 10-year plan it had to have its operations take on a stronger business model by 2023.

These were to be enacted through SPH.

As things stand, KCC owns the field at Sabina Park, meaning they collect revenue from cricket and football matches hosted on the surface, as well as parties hosted there.

"We, as the JCA, if we're going to use it, we have to rent it," Francis said before explaining the ownership structure for the rest of the stadium. "The stands are a shared ownership. The George Headley Stand is owned by the JCA, while the North Stand is owned by the State."

Garth Williams, who was the JCA's communications and marketing manager at the time of the announcement in 2018, said that a number of new facilities would have been added to the stadium which would generate earnings. These, he said, include a jogging trail which was to be placed outside the field, the creation of a sports lounge, plans to instal replay screens, more air-conditioning units, and refurbish the kitchen space adjacent to the club lounge.

Sabina Park Inn was another project planned, which was earmarked to be a three-star lodging for guests and teams. It was to raise the capacity at Sabina Park's existing dorms from 40 to 60 patrons.

Another major change planned by the JCA was to sell naming rights to Sabina Park. This meant that a corporate body could pay to have the stadium bear its name, as is done at other major international stadiums around the world such as the AT&T Stadium, where the Dallas Cowboys play in NFL in the USA.

Williams said that it would have cost a total of $25 million to renovate and market the facilities. This project was also aimed at moving Sabina Park's yearly revenue from a figure estimated at between $2 million and $4 million up to between $40 million and $50 million.

But the JCA said in 2021 these plans were obstructed by the COVID-19 pandemic and also because of a lack of matches at Sabina Park to bring in revenue.

Francis says the lack of matches remains an issue today.

"Our funding comes through international games," he said. "If we're not getting international games, then we can't fund the park."

Francis says that this is also why hosting World Cup games at Sabina Park would have been crucial.

"It is significant to cricket itself," he said. "A lot of youngsters would've been exposed. You would have had at least six teams here at one time. You can imagine, they would have to practise. It is likely they would have engaged kids, engaged net bowlers, and we would've chosen our best youngsters to bowl to them also, so it had far-reaching implications."

The last major renovation done to Sabina Park was ahead of the 2007 ICC Men's World Cup when the North Stand was erected. Floodlights were also installed at the stadium in a phased project between 2014 and 2016.

BY RACHID PARCHMENT Digital sports coordinator parchmentr@jamaicaobserver.com

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