Sports Minister Olivia ‘babsy’ Grange says the surface of the newly renovated basketball courts at Independence Park, which was officially opened at the National Arena on Tuesday, is specially designed to suit Jamaican culture outdoor basketball.
Speaking at the opener, Grange noted that basketball is a sport usually played indoors on wooden surfaces, but in Jamaica the sport is mostly played outdoors on concrete surfaces. due to the high cost required to establish indoor facilities.
However, she noted that renowned German synthetic surface producer Regupol had come up with a much more player-friendly design than the hard concrete surface it replaced.
“Basketball is really an indoor sport played on a wooden surface. However, in Jamaica there is a need for outdoor facilities due to the popularity of the sport and the high cost of wooden facilities,” Grange said.
“Until now, the outdoor courts have been made of asphalt concrete, but Regupol researched and came up with this design, which is much easier on the joints.”
The project, which took more than two years, was ready last year, but COVID-19 concerns delayed the official opening ceremony until Tuesday.
The installation was completed at a cost of $40 million and included upgrades to the courts, fencing, drainage, specialist backboards and lighting and Grange believes the installation is one of those of which the fraternity can be proud.
“The basketball court was specially designed. Seats have been replaced and enlarged from 500 to over 1,000. Work has also been carried out outside to improve drainage around the courts. Finally, high quality lighting has been installed to ensure the courts can be used at night,” explained Grange.
Jamaica Basketball Association (JABA) President Paulton Gordo said having the facility as a centralized location will allow them to once again kick-start development programs and host various competitions.
Although there are plans to launch mini development and youth development programs, he noted that they are still making plans when it comes to competitions.
“We intend to use it systematically on weekends for our mini-programs. Some summer camps will be there, such as jump ball, so we’ll see how often we can bring our national development teams to this central location.
“We are working closely with IPL (Independence Park Limited), who are responsible for the installation. We just need to book early enough to avoid clashes (for the venue) and meet what is required, but in terms of tournaments we are not there yet. We are still arranging and planning for them,” Gordon said.
For example, “the (national) schoolboys final takes place on Friday, but as it is an all-day competition, we didn’t want to play it away, so we will use GC Foster [College].”
Sports Development Foundation (SDF) chief executive Denzil Wilkes has revealed that the project has been delayed by additional work they need to carry out to realign the sewage system, and he believes the new facility will serve the community well. sport for at least a decade.
“Due to the layout of the venue, we had to realign the sewer lines as the sewer line got blocked as one of them ran directly under the pitch.
“We also found that when it rained the courts flooded, so we created drains to prevent flooding.
“We needed a setup that could handle the outdoor elements but also be easier on the players’ joints. With these installations you get a five year warranty and usually a minimum of 10 years with proper maintenance,” he said.
IPL boss Major Desmond Brown said use of the courts would be regulated and advance booking of the facility would be essential for maintenance.
“It’s a special surface that’s made for our conditions, and like all of our facilities, we’re going to manage it to keep it in respectable condition because whether it’s new or old, we have to manage it to make sure that we get the most out of it,” he said.