New ground sets standard
St Lucia's new ultra-modern Beausejour Stadium has been labelled as the benchmark for future construction and development of international cricket grounds in the Caribbean.
Additionally, West Indies Cricket Board (WICB) chief executive officer Gregory Shillingford feels the spanking facility will be extensively utilised when the region hosts the 2007 World Cup.
His comments came in an official opening ceremony ahead of this weekend's back-to-back One-Day Internationals between West Indies and New Zealand.
The ground was first used for a first-class match between India and a Busta XI from April 26-28 when International Cricket Council (ICC) match referee Ranjan Madugalle was sent in to undertake an inspection to see if it would meet ICC's minimum standards.
I can report that the ground not only met the standards, but has become the standard-bearer for all present and future grounds in the Caribbean, Shillingford said to loud, continuous applause.
Over the weekend, it will be the venue for the first double-header in St Lucia.It will not be the last.
I am sure that in subsequent years, we shall witness not only regional one-day and four-day tournaments staged here under the auspices of the WICB, but also Tests and One-Day Internationals that form part of the ICC future tours programmes.
Set in 22 acres beneath the hills, the 13 000-capacity stadium is highlighted by modern infrastructure, including four stands with bucket-type seating, 18 hospitality suites and a fashionable pavilion that contains large dressing-rooms and lounges for both teams.
Its outfield, a perfect oval, is predictably lush green.
Located close to the lively tourist resort of Rodney Bay on the island's north-east coast, the stadium, when completed, should also have two turf and two artificial practice pitches behind the pavilion, along with catering facilities and public conveniences that can be used outside of match days.
The price tag of the stadium is EC$40 million (about BDS$32 million) and is funded by the Government-run St Lucia National Lotteries.
With leading officials having expressed a need for the upgrade of grounds around the region in time for the 2007 World Cup, Beausejour and the Queen's Park Stadium in St George's, which was opened in 1999, appear to have a head-start on the more established regional venues like Barbados' Kensington Oval, Trinidad's Queen's Park Oval, Jamaica's Sabina Park and Guyana's Bourda.
The ICC World Cup will represent the single biggest entertainment and sporting event that the Caribbean will ever undertake, Shillingford said.
Without pre-empting the work of the Windies World Cup 2007, which is a subsidiary of the WICB, I am certain that St Lucia, with its 8 000 hotel rooms, cruise ship berthing facilities, international airports and a state-of-the-art cricket stadium, will feature prominently in the World Cup.