A decision on when or if the T&T Hockey Board Outdoor League 2020 season commences will not be made until a clearer picture becomes available with regards towards the coronavirus (COVID-19) world pandemic that has so far accounted for one death and 61 confirmed cases locally.
This was stated by Douglas Camacho, president of the T&THB when he spoke to Guardian Media Sports on Thursday on matters regarding the sport locally.
Two years ago, the local Outdoor season was cancelled as repairs to the turf surface which had been in use since 2007 took precedent at the National Hockey Centre, Orange Grove Road, Tacarigua.
However, there was a further delay in the laying of the new $1.3 million turf due to the problems between Polytan GmbH officials in Chile and the surface manufacturers in Germany as the delay was caused by the Sport Company of T&T's (SPORTT) re-structuring and the revision of numerous service level agreements with all national sporting organisations falling under SPORTT’s remit.
Polytan GmbH is a Burgheim, Germany-based manufacturer and installer of synthetic sport surfaces, including running tracks and synthetic turf and their surfaces have been in use for more than 37 years, with more than 25 million square metres of sports surface installed across the world.
The European-based company was originally intended to deliver the turf ahead of the March 25-April 2, 2017 FIH Men’s World League Tournament hosted by the TTHB, with the turf being accompanied by the appropriate cleaning machine for it.
Eventually, a team of workers from Polytan GmbH arrived in T&T last August and began work on the relaying of the surface after the local Outdoor Hockey season flicked off on March 24 but was forced to an abrupt end on May 3, 2019, on the request of the Water and Sewage Authority (WASA) due to the low water supply across the country.
The locals were then given a July 3 deadline by the T&THB Competitions Committee to submit proposals with regards the stalled T&T Hockey Board Outdoor season, which eventually resulted in the remainder of the season being called off, while the National Indoor Championships took place as was rescheduled in September, with T&T’s qualification to the Pan American Indoor Championship scheduled for March 2020 their focus.
Blessed with perfect sunny weather and a committed workforce, the Polytan team was able to complete the removal of the old playing surface at Tacarigua and laying of the new astroturf just under five weeks.
But, once again, the T&THB ran into some problems, as the Polytan workers were unable to relay the surface to their regular high standards.
The key fault in the newly installed surface was that with the underlying surface which was not rolled out smoothly and showed visible bumps, which caused the local hockey authorities to request the surface being relayed once more.
Reached for comment yesterday, Camacho said the T&THB had already discussed plans to start the Outdoor season on grass surface across a few venues that they have singled.
"We made other arrangements to get the season going as the repairs to the Tacarigua surface were put on hold due to the Polytan officials being barred from entering the country at this time due to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic as well as continuing discussions between the Government and the manufacturers concerning how the cost of the repairs will be covered and by whom.
He said, "The board (T&HB) had discussions about starting the Outdoor Hockey season by mid-March/April and we had already singled out the University of the West Indies (St Augustine), Diego Martin Sports Complex, Hasely Crawford Stadium, Training Field and WASA Sports Ground in St Joseph as four venues to utilise."
"We were looking at spreading the game to a wider viewing public across the country, but before we could have even got the season off to a start the COVID-19 dealt our plans a severe blow."
With the entire season now on hold due to the suspension of all sporting activities on a national level as well, Camacho, a former T&T Olympic Committee president said that T&THB has no choice but to wait until there is some form of normalcy before moving ahead with plans for the season.
"Once the COVID-19 pandemic is brought under control and world travel gets back to some sort of normalcy, then we can think about the Polytan officials coming back to this country to assess the Tacarigua surface to determine if it will need to be relayed completely or if the underlying surface just needs minor repairs."
"When that is determined then the Government and Polytan will determine who will be covering the cost of having the repairs done, and then we will know how soon the work will commence and a time frame for its completion and resumption of playing at Tacarigua.
With regards to the durability of the surface, Camacho, a hockey player himself said he anticipates the warranty would be for seven years, while the current actual turf has been going on 12 years.