World Cup 2007 February 15, 2007

Arnos Vale cutting it close

Haydn Gill

Workers continue last-minute building at the Arnos Vale Sports Complex © Nation Newspapers
The renovated Arnos Vale Sports Complex, set to be unveiled ahead of the World Cup, promises to be a world-class facility.

Whether or not it is ready to stage the grand climax of the KFC Cup over the next three days, however, is open to question.

The scenic ground, sandwiched between the E.T. Joshua Airport and the Caribbean Sea, has come through a wonderful transformation over the past 18 months in preparation to stage four warm-up World Cup matches between March 5 and 9.

While the enlarged playing area looked in impeccable condition on Wednesday, beyond the boundary was still very much a construction zone and there seemed to be a race against the clock to have everything in place for the first KFC Cup semi-final pitting Trinidad and Tobago against reigning champions Guyana.

Mike Findlay, the former West Indies wicket-keeper who is chairman of the St Vincent and the Grenadines' local organising committee for the World Cup, conceded the ground was running behind schedule.

"We would have loved to have it closer to completion, but we had some heavy rains in November, December and January that set us back a bit, especially with our external works," he told Nation Sport.

"We are desperately trying to get it totally ready in the next couple of weeks. It is a race against the clock."

The delay will almost certainly result in St Vincent not being in a position to hand over the ground to the ICC by Monday. "We were hoping to finish by December 31, then we said by January 31 we would have it ready," he said.

"It hasn't turned out that way and now we are hoping that by February 25 everything would be in ship shape."

The additions to the ground, mainly on the eastern arc, feature a double-decker stand that can accommodate more than 5000 spectators, a four-tier media centre, a four-storey venue operations centre and a two-floor pavilion.

Due to the ongoing works, the double-decker stand will not, however, be in use for the three KFC Cup matches. The western arc of the ground has retained most of its old character, with minor renovations to the Frank Thomas Pavilion, the Mike Findlay Pavilion and the Philip Vierra Pavilion.

As St Vincent and the Grenadines Prime Minister, Ralph Gonzalves, showcased the pavilion to fellow CARICOM leaders yesterday afternoon, there was a cacophony of noises elsewhere in the complex. The continuous sounds of drilling, hammering, sawing and pounding; the annoying presence of dust, mounted scaffolding, and the sight of workmen painting told the story of the unfinished work.

St Vincent's biggest match for the World Cup will be a warm-up clash between champions Australia and England on March 8, and the KFC Cup final on Saturday will be used as dress-rehearsal to test match-day operations.