After many years of dormant sporting activities in Riversdale, St. Catherine, games, such as football, basketball and netball are becoming popular again among the youths with the establishment of a newly rennovated multipurpose court situated in the community.
Every afternoon about 40 or more young people from Riversdale and neighbouring communities gather at the complex to participate in football, netball and basket ball games. Members of the Police Youth Club netball team in Riversdale also use it regularly for practice sessions and organised sporting competitions.
Twenty-two years old Clayton Champagnie has been playing netball at the court since 2008. Three months ago, he was elected President of the Police Youth Club.
“It is very useful and well needed in the community because they use it every afternoon. You have people coming from different sections and vicinity to use it,” said Clayton Champagnie.
“Ever since the renovations of the multipurpose court you see many people coming out now to play basketball, when compared with what used to happen before. We are very grateful for the facility,” he continued.
Mr. Champagnie, who has been organising netball training sessions at the court, said that young people have been coming from neighbouring communities such as Berry Hill, Crawle, Williamsfield and Hampshire to play with their peers in Riversdale.
The Riversdale multi-purpose court. In background is the old market house, which will be transformed into a community centre.
But the renovation of the court did not happen overnight and it took some pleadings from the youths.
“We didn’t have anywhere to play. We had to run on the old surface and people complained about that,” Mr. Champagnie recalled
After years of criticisms from residents about bruises on their feet caused by the unpaved surface, a representation was made to the Social Development Commission (SDC) for assistance in improving conditions at the facility.
Subsequently, the SDC submitted a proposal on behalf of the community, through the Member of Parliament for the area, Mr. Gregory Mair, to the Culture, Health Arts, Sports and Education Fund (CHASE). The organization agreed to fund the rehabilitation of the facility.
Later, preparatory work on the facility began in May last year, when it was chosen as one of the six national Labour Day projects. A sum of $500,000 was committed towards the project by the National Labour Day Secretariat, Ministry of Youth, Sports and Culture.
Work on the premises involved the bushing and clearing of debris, the laying of the court by the Sports Development Foundation and the installation of a fence around the football field. Additionally, the entrance to the complex was paved, the potholes patched and the drains on the compound rehabilitated.
The court is now complete and work is to begin shortly on the old market house on the complex to transform it into a modern community centre.
“It provides an opportunity for young people to release pent up emotions through play and provides them with an opportunity to organize sporting events,” said Barrington Mighton, Community Development Officer of the Social Development Commission (SDC) during an interview with the JIS.
He noted that the court, the only facility of its kind in that section of St. Catherine, provided an opportunity for youths to host formal community corner leagues, where they would invite neighbouring communities to participate in organised activities. So far, two competitions have been held on the complex, Mr. Mighton stated.
Addressing plans to transform the old market house on the complex, he said that a proposal sent to CHASE for funding has been approved. Permission has also been granted by the St. Catherine Parish Council, owner of the market, to start work on the facility.
“Plans have been drawn and the BQ (bill of quantity) has been worked out and there is some discussion going on to decide on the final cost of the project and to put it to tender so that the project can begin to transform the market house into a modern community centre,” Mr. Mighton informed.
He stated that the only challenge at the moment is securing finances and the capacity to manage a structured programme at the court, whereby there will be continuous organised activities on a daily basis.
“We have been looking out to funding agencies who will probably want to entertain a programme of that nature but we have not been able to find a funding agency that would probably help us to fund such a programme,” he said, adding that the programme will provide avenues for persons to excel in the various sporting activities which would lead them to club teams and then to the national teams.
Since the establishment of the court, Mr. Mighton said the community spirit among the youths have been renewed resulting in the formation of clubs in the area.
“I think the camaraderie between the young people have grown significantly in the last year,” he added.
Chairperson of the Riversdale Community Development Committee (CDC), Rev. Doreen Merchant, has welcomed the project.
“It is active and useful and it is needed because it takes some of the youths off the road. You will find that persons go there to practice. Schools would use it when it is near sports time to give the children a feel of the sports ground. It cultivates a sense of purpose because they will meet and they will talk and whatever it is they would play it out,” she said.
She said that several persons within the CDC have been assigned the responsibility for the maintenance and care of the complex.
“When it is ready for cleaning, they do that and with Labour Day coming up we are thinking of cleaning around the premises,” she said. The group would be utilizing the weed whacker; barrow, shovels and rakes which were presented to the CDC during the last Labour Day clean up exercise.
Rev. Merchant is hoping that the old market, when modernised, would be the venue for CDC meetings and other entertainment and educational activities.