A US$2.5 million (TT$16.85 million) grant was given to the Trinidad and Tobago Football Association to build TT football’s new “home.”
President of the TTFA David John-Williams, revealed the price tag of the facility yesterday in a conversation with Newsday during a tour of the “Home of Football”, which is located next to the Ato Boldon Stadium in Couva.
John-Williams responded to claims of being secretive on the specifics of building the facility, dismissing them as mischief.
“I have absolutely no problem with transparency in this project. But we took a different approach that a lot of people are not too happy with,” John-Williams said.
“But we live in a society where you will get a lot of criticism. I am not new to it. I am not a president that is well-liked, because of some of the changes. We had to make some really difficult changes that people could not accept. When we came into the Football Association, football was in a bad way, and we had to take drastic decisions that rubbed people in the wrong way. But criticisms would only make me stronger.”
John-Williams expressed pride and gratitude for the progress the multi-million-dollar building project has made, boasting that building would be completed by the end of November, and that final touches would be done by February 2019.
Yesterday, during the tour, John-Williams showed off all the sections of the complex, which include a hotel, an entertainment centre and training grounds.
“This is the future of Trinidad football…This is the future of Trinidad sport!” John-Williams said as he displayed the facility to stakeholders.
During the tour he explained the complex was built using ICF technology, which utilises blocks of Styrofoam filled with concrete to make a cheap, easy-to-use, lightweight and durable building block. He said the blocks would insulate the facility from heat from the outside, making rooms “exceptionally cool.” The largest rooms in the hotel are about 24 feet long by 25 feet wide, Newsday was told.
He said despite the speed at which the buildings were erected, there were no more than 20 contractors working on the site each day.
John-Williams thanked the Government and FIFA for their investment in TT football. The Government supplied the TTFA with the 17.5 acre parcel of land on which the facility stands.
“The Government has supported this project tremendously in giving us what we consider prime land to do these three facilities that we see today. That was a huge help for us…We felt that we needed to prove the government right in building this facility and I hope that we have done such,” John-Williams said
The Home of Football project, he said, was the first fully funded FIFA Forward project — the organisation’s initiative to provide 360-degree, tailor-made support for football development.
The facility was met with excitement from various stakeholders, who included key members of multiple sporting fraternities
“This is of an international standard and I think this is what the sporting fraternity would want,” said Dr Patricia Butcher, president of the TT Netball Association.
“When you are talking sport tourism, we can now invite teams down here and be proud to bring them here to perform and relax. I am hoping we will be able to bless it when we celebrate our 40th anniversary late in 2019 or early in 2020.”
Andrew Gomez-Burke, president of the TT Gymnastics Federation, added, “I travel internationally at all times, and there are no facilities that I have seen that look so complete compared to what I have just witnessed here. I think John-Williams is doing a fantastic job. I could only hope that the other sporting organisations would utilise this facility to its maximum.”
The TTFA showed off its 72-Room Hotel, (a Three-story building) the Income Generating Project Building (a sports bar and Entertainment Centre) and a facility building which is 6000 sq feet and will compriuse (2 dressings rooms, a Kitchen, 2 youth dorms (male and female), dining room for the youths, laundry and two coaches quarters). He said all the buildings are 90 per cent completed.
Among the touring party were Patricia and Kenneth Butcher (netball), Dudnath Ramkissoon (cricket), Robert Farrier (cycling), Wendell Lia Hing (swimming) and Andy Gomez-Burk of gymnastics.
John-Williams told guests about the engineering of the building and explained the ICF technology that is being used in the construction.
He boasted about the energy usage and the type of air-condition system which will be installed upon completion.
He said, “This building (referring to the hotel) is earthquake proof.” He showed them the material being used in the construction, the varying sizes of rooms for athletes and head of delegations and a dormitory for youths which, he said, can house up to 70 youths.
Asked by Lia Hing when the facilities will be ready he responded: “All construction work will be completed by November 30, 2018, and then we will focus on outfitting the buildings for use and business in the New Year.”
He even jokingly threw out a challenge of a bet when questioned by two of his guests about the completion date. He said, “Let’s take a bet nah”.
Farrier said the facility is world class and these are the kind of facilities which will help cycling in its future plans and programmes and for when teams visit T&T.
He said, “I just returned from Switzerland where I saw similar facilities. Football is on the right track and my sport can benefit from this. I’m really impressed and like what I am seeing here today. “
Everyone expressed shocked about the facilities and even its engineering and design and the thought that went into the vision for the facilities which will also have six practice fields.
Ramkissoon, who represented the T&T Cricket Board, said, “It’s really impressive. All sporting organisations can now benefit from all that they have on offer here. This is truly a tremendous effort and this facility will benefit sports in T&T. Couva is becoming the centre for sports in T&T with cycling, swimming, the cricket centre, the Ato Boldon stadium.”
He added: “Even culture can be included with all these world-class facilities here. Various national teams can be housed here for reasonable rates once they can negotiate with the Football Association. I see they (TTFA) also have plans for the easy flow of traffic in and out of this area. In addition, this area is not known to for flooding, so you cannot say you will have that kind of thing.”
As the tour continued, John-Willaims told his opposite numbers that the project is funded by FIFA, the world governing body for the sport at a cost of TT$18 million.
He said, “When I became president back in 2015, the TTFA assets stood at $149,000 and in 2017 it increased to $46 million and when the home of football project is completed it is estimated that our asset base will be around $160 million.”
Patrica Butcher, of the Netball Association, was very high in praise about the facilities saying: ” This is of international standard. I think this is what the sporting fraternity will want. If you’re talking about sports tourism we can invite teams down here and feel proud to bring them here to perform and feel relax in an environment that is very conducive. I’m really happy to see this. I hope that netball will get an opportunity to bless it when he celebrates our 40th anniversary late in 2019 or early in 2020. I have just returned from Liverpool, England to see where the 2019 World Championship will take place and this is very comparable to what is out there in the big countries. We just need something comparable for netball to what exists for netball internationally.”
Following that completion, the TTFA will then move to have all the buildings outfitted so that it can start doing business which is expected to benefit all stakeholders in the sport.
John-Williams, a businessman and contractor while addressing his guests, noted, “The aim to make this a three-star hotel. What we’ve here is the future of football, the future of sports. Sports have to start thinking big business, and thinking differently and being independent. I must thank the government for supporting us in this initiative. This facilities have massive corporate potential such as naming rights, we can rent the facilities to companies, and fellow sporting organisations and get service providers involved.”
He ended by saying: “We’ll have a wall of fame, a football museum. The rooms will bear the names of footballers and the walls will sport pictures of our football heroes. When teams visit and stay here they must feel intimidated.”
Photo caption: TTFA president David John-Williams (left) speaks to representatives from local sporting bodies, including Dr Patricia Butcher (netball), Robert Farrier (cycling) and Dudnath Ramkessoon (cricket), during yesterday’s tour of the Home of Football.(Photo/Newsday)