Officials from the government and the Recovery and Development Agency pose alongside some of the contractors who helped repair and rebuild the Anthonie Jeffery Caines Sports Arena in Virgin Gorda after it was damaged in Hurricane Irma in 2017. (Photo: RDA)

Nearly five years after Hurricane Irma battered the Anthonie Jeffery Caines Sports Arena in Virgin Gorda, the refurbished facility officially reopened to the public during a Saturday handover ceremony.

“This facility is one that impacts communities, our schools, and most importantly drives core values like sportsmanship, togetherness and discipline,” Education, Culture, Youth Affairs and Sports Minister Sharie De Castro said during the event. “So many values that are needed in life, you can learn them right here on this court.”

The sports arena — which received more than $1 million in repairs administered by the Recovery and Development Agency — now includes indoor and outdoor basketball courts, parking facilities, upgraded restrooms, a perimeter fence, and new equipment.

During the ceremony, Ninth District Representative Vincent Wheatley provided the audience with a brief history of basketball on the sister island.

“Basketball came to Virgin Gorda in the late 1960s, and the first court was a dirt court located where the Bath & Turtle Restaurant is today,” Mr. Wheatley said.

He added that the second facility was another dirt court located at St. Mary’s Episcopal Church, and the third was an asphalt court near the island’s police station.

“This shows the evolution and the dedication of the governments over the years to development of basketball and sports,” Mr. Wheatley said. But the journey didn’t end there. The arena first opened in May 2015. Mr. Caines, its namesake, was born in 1960, but he died in 1988 due to injuries sustained while playing basketball on Tortola, officials said at the ceremony.

During his lifetime, he played for the Mystics basketball team on Virgin Gorda, and he made various contributions to the development of the sport on the island.

2017 hurricanes

Less than three years after the arena opened, however, it suffered major damage due to the hurricanes of 2017.

“We have come a very long way,” Mr. Wheatley said during the Saturday ceremony.

Deputy Premier Kye Rymer also spoke.

“We understand that the Summer Jam has already started, and we’ve had other events at the arena, but we just want to show our commitment to sporting arenas in the territory and to be here to officially hand it over,” he said.

Officials also thanked several project contributors, including the RDA; the Recreation Trust; the Ministry of Education, Culture, Youth Affairs and Sports; and the non-profit organisation Unite BVI.

Also mentioned were contractors: Rufred Forbes and Associates Limited Construction Works led the construction; AGS Construction Limited renovated the rest- room and perimeter fence; No Limit Construction handled the construction of the car park, auxiliary works and supply of sporting equipment; and Alternative Concrete Solutions Limited handled the rubberised resurfacing of the multi-purpose court.

Youth Affairs and Sports Director Brenda Lettsome-Tye, who chaired the ceremony, also gave a shout-out to her department’s Inter-Secondary Basketball League. Two Virgin Gorda schools — Ciboney Centre for Excellence and Bregado Flax Educational Centre — are taking part, she said.