Coming out party for RolleNew minister optimistic about sports in The Bahamas
The Bahamas, over the years, has been the home of a number of international sporting events, and professional teams have graced these shores. New Minister of Youth, Sports and Culture Lanisha Rolle is very optimistic that, that will continue and this country could continue to be a preferred destination for sports.
Speaking to the media recently, Rolle said the Houston Rockets being here for a mini camp last week shows that we are on the move and there is no stopping us now.
“You see what we are doing on the landscape, as it relates to sports, like Shaunae Miller-Uibo and so many other Bahamian athletes who are doing well throughout the sporting arena. For us to have the Rockets here, and other teams, it speaks volumes for The Bahamas and the confidence the world has in our country and our ability to make our sun, sand, sea and our hospitality work for them. We just want to make them feel at home and for them to be well-rested for their return home,” Rolle said.
Rolle sees the trend continuing, where more teams will flock to The Bahamas.
“We have an excellent product all around. Not only do we have an excellent product but we have people who have the skills to ensure that the teams are safe. They have the environment that they need to be able to rest, practice and interact and engage. I am confident that we are going to have more of this sports tourism by the country,” Rolle said.
Apart from the Rockets, the University of Kentucky Wildcats men’s basketball team played four exhibition games here during their ‘Big Blue Tour’ earlier in the summer. Last week, professional basketball players Kevin Durant, of the Golden State Warriors, along with Kyrie Irving and Jayson Tatum, of the Boston Celtics, worked out at the Kendal G.L. Isaacs National Gymnasium. In August, the Bahamas Basketball Federation (BBF) held its annual ‘Summer of Thunder’ series, featuring National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) Division I teams, at the Kendal Isaacs Gym.
From October 17-20, all eyes will be on New Providence as athletes from 51 countries make their way to The Bahamas for the International Judo Federation’s (IJF) World Junior Championships. On October 12, The Bahamas Men’s National Soccer Team will be hosting Antigua and Barbuda in its second match of the preliminary phase of the Confederation of North, Central America and Caribbean Association Football (CONCACAF) League of Nations competition. From November 2-4, high school teams from the United States and Canada will play against local high school teams in the Caribbean Tip-Off Classic right here in The Bahamas. From November 26 to December 2 is the Professional Golfers Association’s (PGA) Hero World Challenge. The tournament will encompass 18 of the world’s top ranked golfers for competition at the exclusive Albany community.
Minister Rolle said that all of these events spark interest and optimism.
The minister also took some time out to address other matters related to sports. She was asked about the minister of works’ comments about overspending on the proposed Andre Rodgers National Baseball Stadium. Rolle said: “I don’t want to follow up with what the minister has said. The Ministry of Works is dealing with the structural part of things, the engineering and all of that. I can just speak positively that I look for the stadium to be completed in due time.”
Rolle said she does not know the timeline as to when the stadium will be finished, but she is looking forward to it being open.
“I will leave it up to the technical persons, but as for the National Sports Authority, and for the ministry of sports in particular, we just want it ready so that people can have access to the arena. We can invite international events and persons to come here to build our brand as a sporting facility for the world,” Rolle said.
Work stopped on the stadium last year after Woslee Construction walked off the project for non-payment. Work resumed late July. Woslee Construction Bahamas is the still the major contractor for structural work on the stadium. It is now estimated that the cost has ballooned to more than $43 million according to Minister of Public Works Desmond Bannister, a far cry from the initial $16 million for the completion of the project.
Rolle also addressed subventions for athletes. She said the payments have been approved and athletes are in the process of receiving their money.
“As far as I am aware for this year’s fiscal period, this government has approved subvention for athletes. We met with the division of youth and confirmed that those subventions are being processed to be released to the athletes as soon as possible. I just like to get the job done, and I know how important this is for persons to perform well and be comfortable in doing what they are doing,” she said.
Last year there were some challenges with the subvention payments, as some athletes felt they were not being paid what they deserved and others were not being paid at all. This year, the ministry experienced challenges with payments in a timely manner. According to Director of Sports Timothy Munnings, the two-month delay was due to a changeover at the ministry, from one minister to the next, and from one permanent secretary to the next. The matter has since been rectified.