Oleai shutdown imminent

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A man walks inside the Oleai Sports Complex yesterday to use of one its facilities. (Kimberly A. Bautista)

Without fundingfrom the government, the Oleai Sports Complex is likely to shut down.

Northern Marianas Sports Association executive director Tony Rogolifoi, in an interview yesterday, confirmed that without funding, NMSA will have no choice but to cease operation of the Oleai Sports Complex.

“We (NMSA) take care of the facilities but the assets, the land itself, it belongs to the government, we’re just running the facilities. Closing down, that’s the plan because we cannot operate without that funding. If we were to close, who is going to handle the operations? We can do it temporarily, for free, but we cannot continue without funding because who is going to pay for the lights, for example,” Rogolifoi said.

Under Gov. Ralph DLG. Torres’ budget proposal for the FY 2020, no funds are allocated for NMSA, as part of the administration’s austerity measures. The House of Representatives will convene either today or tomorrow to act on the budget bill, as the new fiscal year approaches.

Without the allocation for the sports complex, Rogolifoi estimates that less than $50,000 remains in NMSA’s operations account and this would be enough to run the facilities for only about a month.

“I am worried now, NMSA is worried. We don’t even have $50,000 in the account, probably less. We don’t have money in the government funding account to run the facilities—maybe a month, but that’s it. If by end of October we don’t have money, NMSA will decide whether to continue operating the facility or close it down,” he said.

Rogolifoi added that one of his biggest concerns is the staff who are paid to maintain the facilities. Without funding, they will be left taking care of the facility without pay.

“I don’t feel good about closing down the facility, my No. 1 concern is my staff. They’ll be out of payroll, where will they get money, do you think they can operate the gym for free? Maybe temporarily, until the programs are done. They’ll go elsewhere and look for other opportunities,” the NMSA official said.

Rogolifoi admitted that time is not on NMSA’s side, but still he is hopefully he will receive a positive response from Rep. John Paul Sablan (R-Saipan) within the next two weeks. Sablan is the chairman of the Saipan and Northern Islands Legislative Delegation, which finds and allocates funding from other government resources. Rogolifoi said the lawmaker assured him that he will talk to Torres about NMSA’s situation.

“We’re crossing our fingers that something good is going to happen. Rep. JP Sablan met with the governor at 2:30pm yesterday and he was going to bring the issue up,” Rogolifoi said.

Kimberly Bautista | Reporter
Kimberly Albiso Bautista has covered a wide range of news beats, including the community, housing, crime, and more. She now covers sports for the Saipan Tribune. Contact her at kimberly_bautista@saipantribune.com.
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