Trinidad and Tobago


Terry's beach banner

A Good News Story: Govt To Spend $87.5m On Cultural Centre

By Terry Joseph
April 01, 2002

Triggered by Prime Minister Patrick Manning's "misreading" of the sum approved for Pan Trinbago at last Wednesday's post-Cabinet news conference, excessive caution is said to be holding up a Government Information Service release about another major decision concerning T&T culture.

Fact is, last week's meeting also approved $87.5 million for the construction of a state-of-the-art cultural centre, after discussing one of only seven Cabinet notes brought forward from a bundle left by the Panday administration.

Earmarked for State lands just east of Aranjuez, the long-awaited centre is designed to satisfy the demands of diverse cultural events (a copy of the Cabinet Minute passed to this reporter actually says: "from Hosay to Panorama).

An American firm of consultants, described only as "a company that has tremendous experience with the construction of such facilities," convinced Government to change its mind about building the facility on the Port of Spain waterfront, the site agreed upon by the previous administration.

Leisure Providers, a Hollywood-based firm, is poised to execute the main contract, with selected services hired out to a consortium of local companies. Not unexpectedly, Ishwar Galbaransingh's Northern Construction has been axed from the preliminary list.

The centre comprises five buildings, with the main entertainment facility designed to accommodate hosay, the steelband music festival, phagwa, Ramleela, massive calypso and chutney music shows, Panorama, Divali celebrations, mas productions and other large-scale public events.

Cabinet sources confirmed plans for the centre include a fully-air conditioned 15,000-seater auditorium with design versatility allowing operation at various configurations. It will be covered by a retractable dome, offering a fresh-air alternative and view of the night sky, where weather and lunar conditions render that option attractive.

Technically, the yet unnamed facility is designed to feature enormous galleries, rehearsal rooms, failsafe fireproofing, a revolving stage with a diameter of 27 metres, cutting-edge audio and lighting facilites and ergonomically correct seating.

The more than adequate parking arrangement is being tailored to usher access and exit traffic to the planned golden arch interchange at the Grand Bazaar intersection. Notes to the finished design say clearing of a full house and egress for 8,000 vehicles can be achieved in 23 minutes.

Included in the overall cost of the project is a sum that includes servicing its current account (without reference to rentals and gate receipts) for the first 18 months. A committee is being carefully screened to ensure incorporation of all special interests in indigenous arts and entertainment.

Included in its mandate will be an assurance that religious events can be accommodated without compromise.

But the praiseworthy project is not without its problems. Food-crop farmers in the Aranjuez area are said to be up in arms over the way in which Government has gone about bulldozing bureaucratic procedures involved in acquiring the property, some of which had originally been distributed to agriculturists on long-term leases.

A spokesman for the farmers also told this reporter that water from the nearby St Joseph river, historically used for irrigation, will now be cut off from them and even if accessible, could contain toxic contaminants like detergent and paint, given the nature of the project.

Soogrim Chatoor, who has been cultivating crops in the Aranjuez basin for more than 35 years, said yesterday he and a concerned group have requested a meeting with Culture Minister Dr Eudine Job-Davis and Works Minister Arnold Piggott. Chatoor assured that his protest is not politically motivated.

In a related story, today is April 1, a day on which people who believe that any such cultural centre will actually be constructed in our lifetime, only help to perpetuate the tradition of "All Fools Day!"


Previous Page / Terry's Homepage

Copyright © 2002 Terry Joseph