MP promises relief in 2019.
THE Ojoe Road Recreation Ground has fallen into a dilapidated state, to the detriment of clubs and their supporters, as the venue remains sidelined from use by both the TT Pro League and TT Super League.
The ground has been Sangre Grande's hub for competitive sports and other activities, but in recent years became unplayable.
The situation was described by former Sports Minister Brent Sancho as "absolutely insane" and a "disgrace."
Matura ReUnited, a TT Super League member, has been hopping around venues outside Sangre Grande after being barred by the league from using the Ojoe Road venue. North East Stars of the TT Pro League abandoned the ground, opting to play home matches at the Larry Gomes Stadium in Arima instead.
Sancho, who was CEO of North East Stars, said while he was Minister of Sport, a Cabinet note for $60 million was approved for the upgrade of three venues: Ojoe Road Recreation Ground, Ato Boldon Stadium and Irwin Park.
He said when government last changed, however, the funds were used for other projects.
"Since at North East Stars, we had gotten Cabinet approval to build a facility there and from what I understood, what transpired is, with the change of government, they took the funds for Ojoe Road. They re-appropriated the money...which of course was at the detriment of teams in the Sangre Grande area," Sancho said.
The World Cup 2006 defender also described the lack of suitable facilities as "an injustice to people in the area, particularly with the types of sports persons we've produced over the years coming from that region.
"When you look at the type of footballers, cricketers, that come out of the area – track, basketball, etcetera – and coupled with...the amount of usage that Ojoe Road was getting, even when it wasn't properly put together...it is insane that between Matelot and Valencia, the only (suitable) playing facility is in Larry Gomes [Stadium]."
Sancho said when he joined the club, under the ownership of businessman Darryl Mahabir in 2008, the latter made laudable efforts using personal funds to make the venue adequate for top-tier football.
"He spend a lot of his own money trying to upgrade the field, but he was never supported by the corporation at the time. But they didn't have a proper management facility overseeing it, so every Tom, Dick and Harry was using the field. He redid the stands, he redid the field, he tried everything."
Sancho said he sought a temporary solution in 2015 with a partial upgrade of the Matura Recreation Ground, partially for the use of current Super League team Matura ReUnited.
"They got their lights, we resurfaced it a bit, but it was just a temporary hold until the Ojoe Road Sporting Facility was going to be finished, because we were going to join it with the basketball facility there."
The last major work done, he said, was in May, 2015, "where we installed lights and we resurfaced the ground. As far as I understand, since then nothing has been done."
Matura ReUnited tried to secure the use of the ground this season but was denied by the TT Super League.
President of the league Keith Look Loy,described its condition as that of a potato patch.
"Honestly, it's horrible," he said. "The problem is that it is a public ground and that it was woefully inadequate, the surface was horrible. It just wasn't suitable for a Super League venue...
"We tried to assist. We actually gave them three opportunities to have that Ojoe Road Ground inspected. They were doing work and it was never up to scratch.
"Then we got them assistance to get into Valencia High School, which has a pretty good ground on a dry day, but when it rains, it's a swamp. They played a couple matches there and they've been bouncing over the place."
GRANDE MP: OJOE GROUND READY IN 2019
MP for Sangre Grande Glenda Jennings-Smith, responding to concerns about the lack of sporting facilities for the north-eastern community, said while the facility falls under the purview of the Sangre Grande Regional Corporation, she has taken a personal interest in ensuring the venue will be ready for use for Matura ReUnited for the start of the 2019 TT Super League season.
Jennings-Smith also noted that repairs to the basketball court at the nearby North East Regional Multi-purpose Facility, also located on Ojoe Road, is currently being addressed.
"I have been trying through the Sports Company to have them [look at the Ojoe Road Recreation Ground] and they have been looking at the possibility of incorporating that ground to do remedial work.
"I have been in communication with the chairman of the regional corporation, Mr (Terry) Rondon, and he appraised me of all the remedial work that was done. They did some remedial work on the stands itself and the toilet facilities... And I believe with this next fiscal [post-budget] year, there is funding for the continuation of that particular ground in Sangre Grande.
"It doesn't come under the remit of the Sports Company or the Ministry of Sport. Only if they want to engage in a particular upgrade that they will engage them. But as I said, that conversation will continue with the regional corporation."
Jennings-Smith said she is keen to see Matura ReUnited adopt Ojoe Road as their home ground.
"I am aware Matura's standing in the league and their success over the past months. Ojoe Road is being prepared for that [start of next season]. I actually brought that to the attention of the chairman and he assured me that it should be [ready] for the next season.
Jennings-Smith also addressed the issue of the North East Regional Multi-purpose Facility, which was constructed with uneven flooring. The facility was built by Shanghai Construction Limited and opened in 2016, but was quickly condemned by basketball leagues and individual clubs.
"With respect to that facility, yes I was there for the handing over and a match was played. But soon after, they discovered that the ground for the basketball court was uneven and then there was a flood where some underground water affected the ground for basketball where it's vinyl they have on the ground.
"I visited the facility myself afterwards and I was made aware of the issues," she said. "...what has happened is that the contract with the contractors came to an end. So the Ministry of Sport has now stepped in and, as a matter of fact, it is down for repairs this fiscal [year] and the place is now determined a construction site and remedial works to repair or replace that entire basketball floor is due to take place in the first quarter of this fiscal year."