Friday, February 13, 2009

What A Black Friday Disgrace!

By Marcus M. Mottley, Ph.D.

Since the decision was made to build a new stadium, I have been complaining... sometimes bitterly... to my close friends.

Here we were building a US$60 Million dollar sporting facility. Not just a sporting facility... but a cricket stadium. Our first error was that we succumbed to the Chinese - who were funding the project - and allowed them to build it. The Chinese building a cricket stadium? Chinese? Why not a New Zealand, Australian, Indian, or British company? Why not a company which has a track record of building cricket stadium?

Anyway... the Chinese built the Sir Vivian Richards stadium. I am no architect or builder so I cannot and won't comment on the quality of the finished product. But, I can say it "looked good". And, I was proud to be there on the first day of cricket during the World Cup matches.

A US$60M project... Let me ask you the reader this. If you were building your dream property... let's say... a US$1M home. Who would you have doing the landscaping? Would you give the job to the guy who normally cuts the grass in your yard? Or would you call a trained, qualified professional to do the job? If you have a top of the line Mercedes - would you get the guy on the side of the road... who worked on your old Ford to tune up your new car! Hello... not even to change my tires!

In our US$60M project, I think that we gave the job of developing the grounds of this project to the equivalent of a weed-wacker, lawn-mower, cutlass carrying landscaping enterprise. Now don't get me wrong... this type of enterprise normally does a good job around your yard. They may even do an excellent job around the premises of a small hotel - after the initial work had been done by a professional.

And now we are paying the price for the poor - almost criminal - decision to give a big job... a critical task... to a seriously unqualified company. And this particular task was the most important one in the building of this facility. Unlike basketball, football, baseball and rugby, the quality of the cricket grounds and the batting pitch in particular is critical. There can be no error in the quality of the soil, the quality of the drainage system and the types of grass on the grounds.

Let me be clear that I am no expert. Not even close. But as a cricketing fan, I understand the importance of a test match being played on a quality field. I also understand that when a new field is being built from scratch... when the field does not have a history of cricket being played on it... that some sort of scientific analysis should be done regarding things like soil types, above ground flow of water, below ground drainage... and probably a ton of other things of which I would be unfamiliar. I would also think that the experts would need expensive scientific and computerized instruments to carry out these explorations and analyses.

As a matter of fact, one would have hoped that these things would have been done prior to the decision to build the stadium on this site. But... as I understand it, these analyses were not done before. I would have hope that they would have been done as the physical stadium was being built. As I understand it, the level of analysis that I would have been comfortable with was not done.

Our US60M investment was taken lightly. The project was rushed... and the proper prior work was not done. The proper work that should have accompanied the project was not done. And... quite apparently... the work is yet to be done.

Does the field need a modern subsurface chamber system which is used worldwide in baseball parks, soccer stadiums and cricket stadiums? Should the soil be changed to ensure that the water is able to drain in a more 'infiltrative' manner to ensure quick run-off when it rains?

We needed to have given this project to a company with a track record of building drainage systems and playing surfaces for big outdoor sport stadiums. We needed to have gotten the best that money could buy. The best that money could buy... not the cheapest that money could buy... not buy local... not buy political... not buy incompetence... not buy good intentions... not buy friends... not buy because they had a track record of hotel landscaping... not buy because they normally cut the grass on the other field... No!

Now... I understand that recently the job was given to a regional company for remedial work. Well... when I heard this, I said to myself... "There they go again!"

Why could we not get a "world class" company, with a "world class" record of this kind of work, so that they could do a "world class" job on our "World Class" US$60 Million Sir Vivian Richard Stadium?

No - we settled for regional standards... mediocre standards in my mind... paying mediocre money for less than mediocre results!

And so today... Friday, February 13th, Black Friday... we have eggs on our faces. This is embarrassing. We feel disgraced. I feel disgraced. I feel that we have been shortchanged. I have long felt that we were shortchanged.

Going forward we need to think bigger and demand better. We need to make the requisite decisions for the levels of the projects that we have envisioned. We need to set our standards higher. We need to demand world class standards for our world class projects.