Appreciation for renovation of Raoul Illidge Sports Complex

POSTED: 03/11/14 12:39 AM

St. Maarten – The refurbished Raoul Illidge Sports Complex was officially opened with cutting of the ribbon by Prime Minister Sarah Wescot-Williams and Minister of Education, Culture, Youth and Sports Affairs Patricia Lourens-Phillip on Friday afternoon. The renovation of the facility that is now considered an international sports park was financed by the Dutch Funding Agency Usona and the government.

“I am pleased because sports mean a lot to me, pleased because I have played ball in this area as a boy and pleased because this facility serves to build our athletes. As I sat in the bleachers I became aware that St. Maarten has come a long way,” Governor Holiday said.

He reminisced on the past when he was a young boy growing up with his peers and brothers where sporting facilities were scarce. He noted that when they gathered in the pasture with his friends they literally “chopped down trees” to play bush league baseball, which resulted in the desire to play baseball and as a result the Cay Hill area has very special memories.

Only in the late 70s the Government of the Netherlands Antilles bought the area with development co-operation funds for sports, health care and educational development. The island government was at the time looking for an area to house a modern sporting complex, and decided to develop and co-finance the sports complex that officially opened in 1987.

Governor Holiday expressed his gratitude to the many people who contributed to the success of the facility and particularly the “efforts and works of Raoul Illidge” whose name the facility has. Since its opening the sports complex has carried on the tradition as a “breeding ground for many young and talented athletes, ranging from swimming to track and field, football, basketball and tennis,” Holiday said.

He described the facility as a “truly necessary and quality upgrade of the soccer pitch and track” which is a tradition for the people of St. Maarten and the athletes who will use the facility in the future. “I hope that this upgrade will inspire athletes to continue to strive to be their best and to compete to the highest international level, resulting in the not too distant future in a St. Maarten gold medalist in the Carifta games, the Olympic Games and the World Championships.

The ceremony to mark the re-opening must be more than the delivery of the sporting complex, Holiday added. “It must be for the inspiring and producing international champions, which is the next step in the aspirations of a country. I hope that it will continue to serve as an inspiration for the athletes and a source of recreation for the many users.”

Prime Minister Sarah Wescot-Williams sees the re-opening of the Raoul Illidge Sports complex as an achievement for the people of St. Maarten. She recognized the contributions of the many people who have made the upgrade possible. “With a well-defined plan, with cooperation and teamwork the end result could only be positive even though it may take some time,” Wescot- Williams said.

The prime minister encouraged the population to use the complex to the max and to treat it with care since it is a costly project. “There are many more possibilities for the complex and I am looking forward to getting it started.”

Many athletes and sporting enthusiasts have waited for the re-opening of the complex for several months. Wescot-Williams described the complex as “beautiful” and called on the people to be resolute in their commitment and to leave no stone unturned when it comes to sports on St. Maarten.

Minister of Education, Culture, Youth and Sports Patricia Lourens–Philip said that the “beautiful sports field is a pleasure to behold.” The ministry is convinced that sports are important for the development of any country. “Sport provides discipline for participants and goes a long way in deflecting anti-social behavior.”

Minister Lourens noted that young athletes have done well in various sports disciplines over the years. “With the re-furbished Raoul Illidge Sports Complex they will shine even brighter,” she said.

The minister applauded the work of the former ministers of sports and the former and present minister responsible for public works.  She applauded the Ministry of Public Works that was with the project from the very beginning, the efforts by the contractor MNO Vervat and the members of the sports department.

“The upgrading has enhanced the Bel Air and the Cay Hill district and fits in with the beauty and the newness of the surrounding buildings,” Lourens said.

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