No home for netball: Structural integrity of Jean Pierre Complex being assessed

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

The stands at Jean Pierre Complex, Wrightson Road Extension, Mucurapo. – SUREASH CHOLAI

THE JEAN PIERRE Complex remains closed to all sporting activity.

The Sport Company of Trinidad and Tobago (SporTT) is currently doing structural assessments at the multi-sport facility to determine the next course of action.

The complex has been closed since the pandemic struck in March 2020, and remained so even after domestic sport was allowed to resume in February. Sports such as netball, volleyball and basketball, among others, have been using other venues for training practice and competitive events.

SporTT CEO Jason Williams said the process of assessing the damage and calculating the cost of refurbishment has begun.

“The Jean Pierre has some work to be done. We have to get some detailed assessments in terms of the amount of work…and the type of work. This would involve different types of assessments, structural assessments and things like that.”

The popular sports venue, which also hosts some racquet events like badminton and table tennis, has an indoor court with spectator seating, two outdoor courts with extensive seating on both sides and a car park.

But the facility is in a visible state of all-round disrepair. A leaky roof, broken seats, windows and electrical outlets, rusty frames, two corroded outdoor courts, walls with flaking paint and mould and moss are among the internal and external structural issues. A decision on its future depends on the findings of the assessments.

Williams explained, “Until we have all of those different types of works and reports and assessments coming in, we really and truly cannot use the facility until we identify that it’s really sound and safe enough to either go through a significant upgrade or whatever the recommendations might be.”

The derelict outdoor court at the Jean Pierre Complex in Mucurapo. 

Williams said the appraisals are at different stages and boiled down to “structural and civil type assessments to ensure the structure is good and safe.”

The cost of repairs in not yet known.

He said, “Only (when) those determinations are confirmed we will be able to decide on what is the level of upgrade, refurbishment or whatever it might be. You can’t really put a price on it yet until these assessments are done before.

“A time frame for a return to competition is tough right now because only when we get the assessments, we can make a decision to move forward.”

Netball homeless

The complex is the home of TT netball and was opened in 1979 to host the Netball World Championship.

Pierre was an outstanding member of the 1979 TT team that shared the World Championship with Australia and New Zealand.

She later became Minister of Sport from 1991-95. In recognition of her contribution to netball in TT, the complex was named after her.

But now netball is homeless. Unable to use the complex, teams have had to play and practise elsewhere. Finding an alternative venue is an arduous task, said TT Netball Association president Sherry Ann Blackburn.

She also said since the venue was opened in 1979, it had never been upgraded. However, a temporary surface was installed on one of the outdoor courts in 2010, in preparation for the Caribbean Games that year.

The Jean Pierre Complex in a dilapidated condition. 

“Not having a home in the capital city saddens me, because that is our base and home for the sport. It is a challenge for us, a big one, because we now have to compete every more so, with limited spaces, to deliver on the sport.

“Apart from it being closed, it has never been developed further in any way, and this would have also been a concern prior. It has to be up to current international standards,” she said.

As a result of its closure, Blackburn said it’s difficult to attract other countries to come to TT to play.

“We don’t have a facility that is up to standard and can hold a crowd, and there will be a lot of logistical challenges at any facility to achieve that. The only one available and can do that right now, and still with a lot of work, will be Maloney Indoor Complex.”

The Maloney venue, a single outdoor netball court at Nelson Mandela Park (St Clair) and the Eastern (Tacarigua) and Southern Regional Indoor (Pleasantville) Complexes are being used as alternative training and competition venues.

Securing any one of these venues for netball also comes with challenges.

“When you’re competing with all the other sporting disciplines for use of one or two other spaces, it’s very difficult. We’re always juggling which day, which time; you can’t get this day, you get bumped off for other events and tournaments.

“It directly affects preparation of our athletes. The U-21, U-23 and senior teams regularly need indoor facilities to train on,” Blackburn said.

One of many leaks at the Jean Pierre Complex. 

TT’s senior team is currently preparing for a World Cup qualifier in October. Age group teams are also gearing up for the World Youth Cup and U16 tournaments next year. With the Jean Pierre Complex out of commission, and much uncertainty in confirming alternative venues, the teams have to travel to different locations to train.

The senior team starts training on Monday, under coach Kemba Duncan, at the south venue. From September, the team heads across to the Maloney Indoor Complex. Netball also had its official office at the complex, but that is now inaccessible.

“That office space is no longer available. We have engaged SporTT in a conversation with regard to moving the office. We identified a space at Hasely Crawford Stadium (in the same compound as the Jean Pierre Complex) but it’s not ideal. It’s less than, but there too has its issues.

“We have a room there (Hasely) where we house some clothing and I have to go there with a big boots if it rains. It’s terrible when the rain falls. It’s practically condemned. There are no timelines in place so we hang in the balance.

“Covid19 regulation hindered them moving forward with refurbishment. We are looking at other spaces because we need to find a place where we can deliver on the sport as well,” Blackburn said.

Basketball National Basketball Federation president Claire Mitchell said teams have been using other indoor sporting arenas to host events, practise and prepare for tournaments.

For indoor training, they use the Southern Regional facility in Pleasantville, Maloney Indoor Complex and Woodbrook Youth Facility, and for outdoor use, Nelson Mandela Park in Port of Spain and Maloney Outdoor, among others.

A statue at the Jean Pierre Complex, Wrightson Road Extension, Mucurapo. – SUREASH CHOLAI

She said there may also be other issues at other domestic sporting facilities.

“Now that the Eastern Regional Sporting Complex has reopened, we also use the facilities there. (But) the Central indoor facility in Chaguanas has had a sewer problem since 2020 during covid19 and I don’t think that has been resolved.”