Northern Marianas Amateur Sports Association president Michael White has identified the group's three major and related concerns this year to continue the promotion of sports development and excellence in the CNMI.
The takeover of the Oleai Sports Complex leads the priority list, which also includes the passing of a bill that will give NMASA autonomy and getting budget allocation from the government.
Speaking at the NMASA Annual Sports Banquet held Wednesday at the Kanoa Resort, White said the complex is in bad shape, specifically the weight room, which has been closed for several months due to its damaged and unsafe roof. Equipment at the weight room, which provides training and workouts for residents at a measly $1 fee per visit, is also in bad shape.
The Division of Sports and Recreation of the Department of Community and Cultural Affairs has been operating and managing the Oleai Sports Complex for decades although NMASA is mandated by a CNMI public law to do these tasks. However, Executive Order 94-3 put NMASA under the wing of DSR so there is now a tug-of-war for the facility.
White said NMASA can do a better job at taking care of the Oleai complex but it needs the help of lawmakers to repeal a 29-year statute that denies the association autonomy. He was talking of PL No. 4-66 approved by then Gov. Pedro P. Tenorio during the 4th Legislature in 1984 and gave NMASA the powers and duties in regulating the use, operation, and maintenance of sports facilities of the CNMI government, under a memorandum between the association and the departments of Community and Cultural Affairs, Natural Resources, Education, Public Works, and the Office of the Governor.
Two bills (House Bill 17-112 and House Bill 17-268) that will give NMASA more authority and flexibility in doing business, particularly the proposed takeover of the Oleai Sports Complex have been proposed and pre-filed for the past two years, but have yet to be enacted. A provision in the Pacific Games Council Charter (Article 3, Membership, Affiliation, and Fees) was also approved in October 2012, saying that a PGA (Pacific Games Association) member like NMASA (CNMI) will only be recognized if it operates with autonomy and independence.
Besides the creation of a law that will “free” NMASA from DCCA or DSR, White said the association will be needing a regular budget to perform its job. He said for the past two years they been submitting proposed budgets to DCCA, but the division excluded NMASA on the list it submitted to the Office of Budget and Management.
The NMASA president added that for the past several years athletes and their families and the local sports officials have been shelling out money from their own pocket just to hold competitions here or join off-island events.
“Help us help CNMI athletes. Give us the tools to do our job,” White said during the awards ceremony attend by a Lt. Gov. Eloy S. Inos, Reps. Ramon Tebuteb (IR-Saipan) and Edmund Villagomez (Cov-Saipan), members of the CNMI Hall of Fame, and athletes and officials from various local sports groups.
NMASA gets funding only from annual membership fees and donations. Unlike most of the Pacific nations, NMASA/CNMI is not an IOC member and thus could not get financial assistance from the powerful and well-funded International Olympic Committee. The association also gets money from the government coffers only if a request is made and the recent one was during the 2010 Micronesian Games in Palau.