For the past 20 odd years constituents of Siparia have had to deal with a terrible eyesore, smack in the middle of the town, that being the much loved Irwin Park. This park would have produced some top athletes in the past but was now being used for a token football match and even more for illicit activities. For many years there has been a cry from residents for the park to be upgraded so that life could come back to High Street, Siparia.
Well, their prolonged calls landed on the ears of chairman Leo Doodnath and by the end of this month, demolition work would begin at the venue. The facility will be replaced by a spanking new Regional Sports Complex. Doodnath, coming from a very strong background in sports and being the current president of the South Zonal Cricket Council and a former executive member of the T&T Cricket Board, saw the need for a sporting facility in the area to replace the old Irwin Park and from then he started to lobby.
It was with great pride that Doodnath walked out of his office into the hot sun last Wednesday to meet with officials of the Sportt as they visited the park to conduct pre-tender procedures with a host of contractors. "I am very happy to see what is happening here today. For 20 years the people of Siparia longed for a proper facility and today marks an important day. It is a day that opens up the park for a great remake. In fact, we are going to have a Regional Sports Facility here.
"What would give me an even greater feeling is when it is completed and people start to pack into the venue. Life would come back here and the best way to do that is have this facility up to standard. "I live not too far from the park and I can tell you that days gone by, here was a hive of activity and people coming from all over the country to compete against our athletes here.
"Sports is such an important part of the human development and with all the knowledge being circulated out there about living a healthy life, we can now afford our people here a place to utilise in their bid to become healthy. "The Regional Complex would not only be used by athletes but everyone in and around Siparia. People may just want to come out and have a walk and we are catering for that. The facility also have lights, so that families can come out at nights and spend quality time participating in sports."
This park has served as a central spot for the community, coming alive on afternoons and on the weekends with athletes and sports supporters gathering here. Vendors selling food and other items set up shop nearby, along with a very busy taxi stand. One of the biggest attractions at the park will be the cycle track. Cycling has seen an upsurge in participation in Siparia since the rise of national star and hometown boy Njisane Phillips. Now the youths will have a world class cycle track to train on.
With a space for joggers, a football field, pool, cricket pitch, basketball court and an old cycling track, this park has produced some of the country's top sports personalities. Doodnath explained what was to come: "It will have a new cycling track, a jogging track and upgrade of the other facilities. Monuments of outstanding personalities will be placed strategically around the park." Siparia is home to Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar and she remarked: "After all this is my constituency I was born and grew up opposite the park, so it is home to me and I am glad to see that it will be upgraded."
Irwin Park, which was named after a former warden of St Patrick, has produced Olympic long distance runner Ian Morris. Bids for phase one of the upgrade will be closed on November 7 and work is expected to begin at the end of the month. The first phase would entail demolition of the old pavilion and boarding off of the football field and new pavilion.