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Aug 31, 2010

September celebrations go on without Belize City Center

The City Center will be off limits for this year’s September celebrations.  It is the first time that we can recall that the biggest multipurpose facility in the city will not be opened in one of the busiest periods for entertainment. The sporting facility has been declared structurally unsafe as the venue for numerous activities that are traditionally held during the September festivities. Last Friday, a team of engineers from the Ministry of Works deemed the City Center as unsafe to hold the size of the crowds that the events normally attract. Organizers are scrambling for other locations to hold their planned activities. News Five’s Isani Cayetano found out why it’s better to be safe than sorry.

Isani Cayetano, Reporting

The Belize City Center, the old capital’s only multi-purpose sporting facility, has been considered by many an oversized oven since it was constructed more than a decade ago.  The facility has long been used as the venue for concerts, sporting events and commercial expos. Over the years, the complex became synonymous with September Celebrations as it has for generations served as home to many memorable pre-Independence Day Byron Lee concerts, Sound Fests and Queen of the Bay pageants.  This year, however, Belizeans will have to relocate elsewhere as the City Center is out of commission due to fears that it is no longer structurally safe.  Sounding the alarm was Anthony Michael whose office on the ground floor is the headquarters of the National Sports Council.

anthony michael

Anthony Michael, Executive Director, National Sports Council

“I had written to the Ministry of Works before and due to their busy schedules and stuff with flooding happening throughout the country and stuff they found the time out also to come down and do a study for us, a very detailed study. I must applaud them for that effort.  The report has been completed and was submitted to my office on Thursday which I in turn informed my minister the Honorable John Saldivar immediately of the recommendations set forward in that report. The Ministry of Works in their recommendation indicated to us that they would not like to see any concerts that create dynamic forces.  That means significant moving and jumping up to occur until the further strengthening of the Civic Center could be done.”

The outside of the building seems fairly intact but close inspection of beams and other support mechanisms clearly shows that it is only a matter of time before its flooring gives way to gravity.  Engineers are preparing to take on the task of renovating the structure but pageant coordinator Emma Boiton who has been holding the annual Queen of the Bay Pageant at that location for quite sometime has been displaced.

Emma Boiton, Pageant Coordinator

emma boiton

“It has given me a lot of unnecessary work.  The committee and I have had to do a lot of re-planning.  Things that had already been set in place that I thought I wouldn’t have to deal with this week, now I’ve been having a busy time trying to put back, put things into place.”

Boiton is not alone in her discomfort.  Also forced to find a different venue is Sound Fest 2010.  After consulting with Michael organizer Tony Wright has had to book an alternate site for the music showcase.

tony wright

Tony Wright, Organizer, Sound Fest

“We thought maybe a thousand people or so would have been alright so we still gone with it but em all in all what happened was after we saw the condition and talked to him well we couldn’t do nothing much more about that so our next venue definitely had to be Bird’s Isle where over the years people had been telling us why yo noh ker this show da Bird’s Isle, open air and whatnot.  But one of the things why we didn’t do that is because of the condition of weather you know, weather is unpredictable so we have always—whether it rains or not we still always use to have people come out to the show you know so that‘s we were sort of insisting on the Civic.”

Promoters chose the City Center to avoid the elements but the building itself is dilapidating as a result of faulty drainage.  Instead of flowing out into nearby drain water accumulated in the gutters leaks into the upper flat causing the concrete flooring to weaken.  A crossbeam that supports the weight of the flooring is visibly wispy while the roof and the bleachers are also rotting away.

Anthony Michael

“In the past if you could have asked the public who attended some Byron Lee and some other concerts they had indicated from then that they felt some movement on the floor upstairs actually movement and that should not be occurring according to the engineers.”

Isani Cayetano

“For many years, the Belize City Center, Civic as it is commonly known, has been the venue of choice for several activities, including the National Children’s Rally during September celebrations. This year things have taken on a different turn with the closing of this multipurpose facility for urgent repairs.”

The relocation to Bird’s Isle says Boiton is a coincidental return to the birthplace of the Queen of the Bay pageant.

Emma Boiton

“I can remember several pageants taking place there and I know that two or three years ago I went to Vince and check to see if they were making any repairs or what they were doing so that we could go back there.”

Like Boiton, Wright is also hoping that the change of scenery will help to attract a wider audience to this year’s festivities.  Meanwhile, the proposal for the repairs is expected to be forwarded to Cabinet for approval. Reporting for News Five, I am Isani Cayetano.

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9 Responses for “September celebrations go on without Belize City Center”

  1. MADDYVANDIJK/DEREALIST says:

    This is such nonsense, You would think that this location in the city would be first priority for the september celebration, what a darn shame.

  2. Also Concerned says:

    This should not be happening. I remember when the new “Civic” was constructed. As mentioned in the article, even the lay person in Belize could tell that this was no improvement on the old structure.

    Of course, at the time, we also heard that the contract for Civic was given due to political affiliations. So, now the people of Belize will have to foot the bill to repair or rebuild this monstrosity while those who got the contract made off like bandits. All involved in the construction of this “oversized oven” should be ashamed. But I’m sure they will lose no sleep. There should be a warranty on something like this, as with most other purchases.

  3. JJ says:

    All I could say is that this is just a darn shame…..just a darn shame!!!!!!Let me be frank, didn’t these people (September Celebrations Committee, Sports Council and the respective responsible ministries) know that the September Celebrations were coming and that this venue would be the prime venue to hold large events such as the Sound Fest and the Queen of the Bay and others; and as such should have tried to fix the centre. I think this is just a darn farce to be honest; because come to think of it, when some Government Ministry was doing a tour around the country to determine the readiness and safety of structures as hurricane structures, why was the Belize City Centre not reviewed? If it was not, then I say it should have!….What if a hurricane forms tomorrow and the listed shelters (which the City Centre is not one), cannot hold our people…..shouldn’t the largest multipurpose center be considered as a safe haven for our city residents? This shows a fundamental lack of planning and foresight. Likewise, this shows that more attention and emphasis ought to be placed on proper and regular upkeep and maintenance of public structures by the responsible public authorities. As a future example of a similar situation like the Belize City Centre that can occur….the Bliss Centre for Performing Arts….I can only imagine if there is a regular maintenance schedule and review for that structure at all…………Let us make things right 99% of the time people……I hope our public officials do what is right instead of what is politically safe and fill their pockets. I end with this………kick a dog long enough….one day he will bite you!

  4. Proud says:

    hmm….someone pockets got filled with this deal.

  5. Optimist says:

    well at least the Marion Jones fence is strong, 2 million for a fence? is this any better?

  6. Common Sense says:

    LOL! Belize business as usual!

    I would love to start a political party affiliated construction company…..but sadly my concious over-rides my need of cash.

  7. Earl Grey says:

    BELIZE…………….. WE NEED TO RAISE OUR STANDARDS!!!!!

  8. kev says:

    they wait until a day before september to start focusing on this. they’re too stupid, and love to work backwards. who the hell build their fence before the actual strcuture. big example MARION JONES SPORTING COMPLEX

  9. David says:

    I think honestly they should get a loan and destroy the piece of …. n rebuild a brand new civic center i kno it will b hard to get the money but it will b soo much better for belize in the long run.

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