In anticipation of the CNMI hosting the Pacific Mini Games in 2021, the Office of the Governor has identified the rebuilding of the Oleai Sports Complex as a priority.
According to press secretary Kevin Bautista, the Torres administration is currently in negotiation with the Pacific Games Council in hosting the Pacific Mini Games in 2021, which would require the rebuilding and reconstruction of sports facilities that are conducive to hosting a large number of athletes from around the region.
“The sports complex is a huge priority for the administration,” said Bautista. “We’ve made the commitment that we are going to continue hosting the Pacific Mini Games in coordination with the PGC.”
The Oleai Sports Complex consists of the Gilbert C. Ada Gymnasium, the Francisco “Tan Ko” Palacios Ballfield, the Miguel “Tan Ge” Basa Pangelinan Ballfield, and the track and field facility and grandstand.
Bautista said that renovating the sports complex is one of the top projects of the Office of Planning and Development and the Office of the Governor’s plans on expanding sports capacity through funds from the U.S. Economic Development Administration.
“[This] is another huge funding source that we’ve been able to avail of, to really put together our recovery in a much more concrete sense,” Bautista said. “We’re excited about the possibilities. We’ve been in coordination with PGC and a lot of our sports partners who have historically been leading sports and culture here on the islands.”
OPD director Kodep Ogumoro lobbied for the House of Representative’s endorsement of the proposal to improve the Oleai Sports Complex in December, stating that it is among the top 20 priority projects under the Comprehensive Economic Development Strategy that the OPD has prepared.
The House, in turn, endorsed the plan to improve the sports complex through House Resolution 21-23, as introduced by Rep. John Paul P. Sablan (R-Saipan).
“There is a lot to look forward to with the new funding, and now the whole technical process of finding construction workers, putting the projects down and going from a groundbreaking to a ribbon-cutting is the most important thing for us now, ahead of 2021,” Bautista said.
The Department of Community and Cultural Affairs, meanwhile, submitted last Dec. 20 a request for a grant of $18 million to $20 million to the U.S. Economic Development Administration to renovate the Ada gymnasium and remake it into a “world-class” sporting complex as well as a cultural center, with a 2020 deadline if the grant is approved.
The EDA grant will also help DCCA with a cultural event site at the Civic Center in Susupe, which would include about 75 permanent “island-style” booths, a main stage, restrooms, walkways, landscaping that would accommodate future festivals and big events, and more.
According to DCCA Secretary Robert H. Hunter, when DCCA first managed the gym, the facilities weren’t well maintained because their budget was only $400,000 a year and that wasn’t enough to keep the facility clean and functional. If the grant application with EDA is approved, then the facility will need at least $700,000 or more a year to be well-maintained; otherwise it will be in the condition it always has been in.
“We haven’t fully taken advantage of our two avenues, which are sports and culture. If we can capitalize on that through the renovation of the gym, bring back the Asia’s baseball teams, hold swim meets, hold tennis events, track events, and more, that would be fantastic,” said Hunter.
Even without the EDA grant, the DCCA still plans to build a cultural center at the Civic Center, Hunter said. One of the visions for the cultural in 2020 are monthly festivals that will include a plumeria festival, breadfruit festivals, Festival of the Pacific Arts, and more.
A tentative yes or no from the EDA will be available by the end of January or early February.