Track not for public

New walking/jogging track planned

When the resurfacing of the Truman Bodden Complex athletics track is completed, it will not be available to the public, Minister of Sports Alden McLaughlin confirmed last Wednesday.

‘The track cost more than $1 million to build,’ Mr. McLaughlin said. ‘It’s continued used by the public, some using improper footwear, damages it.

‘We just can’t afford it.’

The multi-million dollar refit of the stadium is due to be completed by the end of April, with the football field being ready for a match between Cayman and Bermuda in early March.

There is good news for joggers and walkers, however. There are plans to redevelop the field behind George Hicks High School as a multi-use public sports facility that will include a new walking/jogging track.

Although all the details are not finalised, the plan calls for a 497-yard walking track around the perimeter of the new sports facility. The track would be asphalt with a municipal-quality rubberised surface. It would also have lighting.

Mr. McLaughlin said other features of the new public facility include two football fields, one of which will be regulation size, and a practice cricket pitch. The fields will have artificial turf.

Two sets of bleachers, one on either side of the field, will also be installed.

The bad news is the new public facility will take some time to complete.

‘But [the public] will have a splendid facility after that,’ Mr. McLaughlin said.

The issue of the Truman Bodden Complex being unavailable for use by the public came up at a recent Cayman Islands Athletics Association awards dinner.

CIAA President Delroy Murray said the track should be used solely by elite athletes.

He agrees the public should no longer be allowed to walk and jog on the Truman Bodden track.

‘Does everybody in England have the right to use Wembley Stadium?’ he asked. ‘It doesn’t matter that there are 60 million people there and only 50,000 here; it’s the same principle.’

Mr. Murray was unconcerned how the public would react to not being able to use the track for fitness.

‘I really don’t know and to be quite frank, I really don’t care,’ he said. ‘My position is quite clear on this matter. It’s an expensive piece of infrastructure by the government and it cannot be open to all and sundry. I can’t think of any country within the Caribbean where the national stadium is open to everybody. And I don’t see why the Cayman Islands should be any different.’

Although there will be a gap in between the time the Truman Bodden track is completed and the when the redeveloped multi-purpose facility is ready, Mr. Murray believes people can find other places to exercise.

‘I walk and try to keep fit and I never feel the need to walk [at the Truman Bodden Complex],’ he said. ‘It should be limited only for international athletes to use it whenever they want to and for national teams and for events that have a national feel about it, such as your inter-primary school and inter-secondary school meets – but not for egg and spoon races. They also used to use it for sports days, which to me is nonsense.’

Mr. Murray said the national stadium must become a place elite athletes dream to go to.

‘That’s why I make the point about Wembley,’ he said. ‘There are many persons, I’m quite sure, who play football in England who have never played at Wembley and whose desire has always been to play there – even if they’re on the losing team. So it must be with the track here. Your desire must be to run on it as something unique.’

In addition, it is hoped the refitted track can help attract more international athletes and competitions.

Brooks Johnson, the USA Track and Field coach has said that if the Jamaican relay team came, he could produce the US 100 and 400 metres relay teams for an international track meet at Truman Bodden.

Mr. Murray said that Cayman’s athletes need to train on track surfaces of the same quality they will see overseas.

‘We now have international competitions which involve nine and 10-year-olds,’ he said. ‘So if they’re selected for international teams, they will be trained… on that surface because they will have to run on such surfaces when they go into the international arena.’