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Dec 13, 2017

The Civic is Back – Who Will Manage Spanking New Arena

A new state of the art Civic Center on Central American Boulevard was opened today for the first tour by the public. The impressive facility is said to cost the government thirty-three million dollars, complete with a FIBA certified basketball court. But with all the trappings there is one thing lacking. How will it be run and maintained?  News Five’s Isani Cayetano was at the public tour and files the following report.

 

Isani Cayetano, Reporting

With a price tag of roughly thirty-three million dollars, the newly remodeled Civic stands as the most expensive public building to be erected by the Government of Belize.  Work on the project began in December 2015, almost two years after the previous metal construction had been demolished.  Since then, a team of designers, engineers, contractors and workmen has been toiling diligently to realize the vision of a new sports and multipurpose facility in the Old Capital.

 

Christie Mastry

Christie Mastry, General Manager, Belize Infrastructure Limited

“The contract was signed for thirty-two million, nine hundred and forty-one thousand.  That is the budget that we have spent to date.  We are on time and we are on budget, and this is what thirty-two million, nine hundred and forty-one [thousand] dollars in 2017 looks like on the ground.”

 

It’s a lot to behold at first glance.  The sheer magnitude of the structure can be overwhelming, but a walkthrough of the building gives a complete appreciation of its architectural and engineering features.  At seventy-five thousand square feet, the interior boasts a world-class, FIBA certified basketball court, encircled by over three thousand individual seats.  On the second and third levels are a mezzanine and a VIP section, respectively.  Perhaps the most obvious question, aside from cost consideration, is the management and maintenance of this eight-figure behemoth.

 

Patrick Faber

Patrick Faber, Deputy Prime Minister

“We have opted to place the management of this building under contract.  We‘ll contract a management company to do so and I‘m sure that all Belizeans are aware as well that we invited bids for that some time ago.  It was on October sixth that it was opened up and we in fact closed that, or we tried to close the process on the fifth of December, just last week.  We received a total of four interested entities, however, we found that none of those who put in their interest met the technical requirements that we were looking for.  So we‘ve decided to open it back up, to extend, rather, is the way we should put it, to extend the process that will now continue up until the end of January.”

 

While it is designed to withstand a Category Five hurricane, the concrete and metal edifice was also drawn up with environmental friendliness in mind.

 

Daniel Arguelles

Daniel Arguelles, International Environments

“We wanted to compete with whatever they have out in the region.  We wanted to make it energy efficient for the business aspect of it, so that when running this building, you know, we calculated in and around maybe three hundred and fifty thousand dollars a year on just energy which is not that much when operating a facility of this size, especially with these big units and fully air conditioned.”

 

At capacity, the new Belize City Center can accommodate up to five thousand persons, both seated and standing.  As one can imagine, the cost of running the building at its peak, or even when it’s unoccupied, can be expensive.

 

Christie Mastry

“In the package that went out for bidding for the management companies was that we worked with the contractors, the joint venture team and we put together a very accurate, indicative chart of operations and maintenance expenses throughout the year.  So that includes everything, from running the A/C’s for full-time events, larger full crowd events, medium-sized events on a day-to-day basis.  It includes staffing, it included security, it included basically, all the overhead if you were running this as a business venture.”

 

The final touches being completed in these remaining weeks, it is presently open for tours by the public for a limited time only.  Whomever wins the bid for management, it is expected that the building will be officially launched within a month to a month and a half after the signing of that contract.

 

Patrick Faber

“I believe the contract that we would sign with them allows us for an official opening within thirty to forty-five days of us signing off.  So if you give us a week or two to evaluate the bids at the end of January, we are looking at somewhere in March or April for the official opening.  We’re not going to lie to people about that.  We are insistent that we are not going to open this facility until we have everything right.  You know the dangers if we start using the facility without the proper management company in place and I am hoping that the Belizean people will be just a little bit more patient.  I know we’ve waited a long time but we want to make sure that we get it right.”

 

The perimeter of the building is equally as impressive, with a basketball court, a football pitch, a dock on the riverfront, adequate parking and a bus stop to boot. Reporting for News Five, I am Isani Cayetano.

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