I have been visiting the Anna Regina Community Centre Ground (ARCCG) on a regular basis, including playing cricket matches there. On each occasion for the last four weeks, the site has been quite depressing. Recently a spectator was amused when a cricket ball that was only three deliveries old was lost within the ground on account of the vast amount of bushes surrounding the unkept drains. “In this modern age?” he asked. These were habitual scenes two decades ago when we were forced to play on rugged fields and endured the agony of many unfinished games because of lost balls. Unfortunately it seems that little has changed since then, except that the balls are now being generously replaced.
To begin with, the physical structure including sections of the fencing, the scoreboard, the press box, the concrete centre and the toilet facilities are all in a dysfunctional state. The main pavilion also has several loose and old zinc sheets that create loud noises in the heavy wind and if they fall off, someone could get seriously injured. A female spectator recently had to endure the embarrassment of seeking urgent relief elsewhere after she could not use the washrooms because they were locked. This has been the state of the ARCCG for quite some time and even the appointed IMC of the Anna Regina Town Council has failed in their responsibility to upkeep the ground even to minimal standards.
It has been about two months now since the ground hosted Republic celebrations and countless splinters of broken bottles are still embedded there. Surely a cricketer should not risk diving for a ball or a footballer engage in a sliding tackle, because it is dangerous. I recall Ramnaresh Sarwan and the Demerara team previously refusing to play at the ARCCG in an inter-county match until it was thoroughly cleaned because of a similar problem.
Why the authorities continue to neglect the most important ground on the Essequibo Coast is anyone’s guess. There is no guessing though, that the ground is frequently being used to host numerous fairs and other activities while the council is handsomely compensated. Yet there is very little indication that even a portion of the income is being spent on its maintenance. Why are glass bottles and heavy duty vehicles still allowed in the ground, especially during soggy conditions? Do the authorities not care for sports in Essequibo?
There are close to one hundred persons, mostly youths and including females who use the facility daily to engage in various sporting disciplines. I am encouraged because I have observed promising talent, many of whom crave for the opportunity to become national athletes through guidance, intense training and proper facilities. This will not be achieved, however, if this facility is not prudently managed, maintained and appropriately secured in the future. This facility has the potential to become a first class venue and with much more support from the government and corporate entities this could be made a reality.
The idle concrete centre could be refurbished and made into a member’s pavilion with dressing rooms, and there could even be a canteen to cater for fans, as is the case with many grounds such as Bourda and Everest in Georgetown. There is an interest in having floodlights installed, and hopefully this can be realized as soon as possible as I have advocated previously.
The ECB cricket hostel is just next door and should be incorporated for easier access for the players during encampment. The North Essequibo Cricket Committee along with devoted cricketers must be commended for selflessly devoting their time and personal resources to develop and maintain excellent pitches, while the footballers have done the same to erect goal posts. The GFF under Mr Christopher Matthias has revived the sport in the region, and this is a positive sign for the athletes. This notwithstanding, the challenges of preventing animals from entering the ground remain, given the fallen fences and absence of security personnel. These sore issues cannot be ignored. It is time the authorities acted to save this facility from being completely ruined.