The Oleai Sports Complex is expected to undergo significant improvement, as Northern Marianas Sports Association begins the application process for an Economic Development Administration grant that would possibly double the size of the existing structure.
According to NMSA official Laurie Peterka, she, along with the Department of Community and Cultural Affairs and Office of Planning and Development, have started working on the application for the EDA grant that they have been discussing for over a year.
“We’ve been waiting on our government to get to where we are today. They’ve delayed us because the property belongs to them, but we’re starting to push forward. I’ve been working very closely with the staff of DCCA and the office of Planning and Development for the last two weeks and the grant process is moving forward,” she said.
Peterka explained that the scope of the project is massive and will take up the property from the Saipan Mayor’s Office all the way down to the Marianas High School and the property adjacent, in a mirror image.
The project will improve the Oleai Sports Complex and extend it, too to create a connected cultural center.
The project includes adding a swimming pool, tennis courts, and a pedestrian bridge that goes across the Oleai Sports Complex to the beach area where the cultural center will be built to have a canoe house, beach volleyball courts, and a performing arts area.
“It’s about a $20-million project in total and it would be done in three phases. The thing I think that is really valuable is how we can make sports tourism or even our sports economy, more effective through infrastructure development and be able to have that platform to build on,” Peterka said.
Concession stands will also be placed around the area and the existing grandstand at the track and field facility will be extended to accommodate more people.
“This is a conceptual process where you talk about ‘this is what we envision.’ If awarded the grant, EDA will have an architect and engineer do the design and build aspect of it so what we’re talking about today could shift or change a little bit depending on the actual engineering,” she said.
Peterka, who is urging all sports federations to show their cooperation by providing data and a letter of support, said that there is no set date for submission of the application. However, they plan to file it as quickly as possible due to the numerous groups also competing for the grant.
“Our region is competing with LA Fires last year for the same amount of money so the sooner we get the application in, the more likely we’ll get priority in front of other applicants and that’s the urgency. There is a rotating open window on this application so it’s not a fix deadline. I t’s just the sooner, the better,” she said.