February 20, 2009
Upkeep to cost $100,000 per year

It is taking the National Sports Council (NSC) money, time, as well as other resources, to upkeep the four playing fields, Arnos Vale One and Two, Sion Hill and Stubbs, which underwent extensive outfield redo three years ago for the staging of warm-up matches ahead of Cricket World Cup in 2007.{{more}}

Manager of the NSC Osbourne Browne and Operations Superintendent Lauron Baptiste both concurred that at the core of the problem was the Local Organising Committee’s (LOC) choice of the heavily dependent sand-based fields.

Baptiste said that based on soil analyses carried out last June, where samples were sent to the laboratories of Agri Services International in Florida, all four fields were determined to be below the “critical level.”

“The main nutrients needed here are Potash, Nitrogen, Phosphate, Boron and Zinc, but were all below the level needed at the fields,” Baptiste told SEARCHLIGHT last Wednesday.

Pointing to the severity of the problem, Baptiste revealed that the Stubbs Playing Field “is the most deficient in most nutrients”.

Baptiste revealed that to mitigate the problems, the NSC has embarked on “aggressive maintenance” employing a two-pronged approach, both scientifically and practically.

He said that part of this approach is the use of top soil to mix with the bay sand.

Additionally, Baptiste said that granted the poor state of the fields, applications of nutrients must be carried out.

He said that this application, which will be four times per year, will see the main Arnos Vale Playing Field, which is 4.5 acres, utilizing about 60 bags of the banana fertilizer ( 16.8.24), will cost the NSC about $30 000 per year.

Baptiste stated that for the four fields in total, “we are looking to about $100 000 per year”.

“And, you are not including other chemicals like pesticides and weedicides,” Baptiste, an Agronomist, said.

He admitted that over time, about three to four years, the cost will become less as the soil structure will improve.

Baptiste, in listing the myriad of problems facing the NSC, stated that the sand-based fields are habouring more pests as “the sand makes it easy for them to tunnel through”.

Browne, in support of Baptiste’s claim, said that prior to 2007 there was no need to use pesticides on the fields.

In making the comparisons, Baptiste spoke favourably of the lush green parcels of land on the stretch of land entering the Arnos Vale Playing Field, and the Mound at the Sion Hill Playing Field, which are not sand-based. “They have all the properties.”

Browne said that the issue of providing adequate water and the attached cost of irrigation for the fields, needed for their upkeep, poses another headache.

The NSC Manager revealed that as part of the rehabilitation exercise, water from the nearby river at Arnos Vale will be pumped and stored, then filtered, as approval has been given from the Bureau of Standards to use this measure.

Baptiste, a former St. Vincent and the Grenadines senior cricketer, and former Windwards Under-15 Cricket captain, said that to prop up this action, moisture indicators will soon be in place on the fields to monitor the moisture levels.

Browne added that many of these pitfalls could have been avoided, if persons had listened.

He said that with no official handing back over done of the fields to the NSC, that members of the LOC have repeatedly objected to the use of top soil on the fields, when it was apparent that problems were manifesting themselves.

Browne added that his organization has had little by way of proper documented guidelines for the maintenance of the fields.

The firm Gregori Limited whose experience was at golf courses was contracted to redo the four fields.

The four fields since re-commissioned two years ago have been suffering from lack of grass growth as the weather and other factors have been taking a toll on their survival.

The Sir Vivian Richards Stadium in Antigua and Barbuda, also a sand-based field, was deemed unfit for play last week, as there was too much sand on the outfield, abandoning the intended Second Test between the West Indies and England.