The Multi-purpose Sports Complex, which was outfitted as an overflow field hospital earlier this year during a Covid-19 outbreak, will soon get a new HVAC system, officials announced last week. (File photo: JOEY WALDINGER)

A breath of fresh air is coming to the Multi-purpose Sports Complex with the pending installation of a new HVAC system, but that may not be the only change coming soon.

Deputy Premier Dr. Natalio “Sowande” Wheatley said on Dec. 9 during a contract-signing ceremony that he was pleased with the progress being made on the facility, which he hopes can soon be renamed to celebrate a Virgin Islands figure.

“I will put a committee in place to make sure that happens, because this government loves to recognise those persons who have contributed in various areas of development,” he said.

The facility provides space for recreational activities but has also served as an emergency shelter after the 2017 hurricanes and a field hospital last July when the hospital was overwhelmed with Covid-19 patients.

Government signed a contract with Quality Air Conditioning & Refrigeration for $786,000 to install a new air control system, which Premier Andrew Fahie said should be completed in 180 days.

During the budget debate on Dec. 14, however, Opposition Leader Marlon Penn claimed that only one other bidder participated in the tender process. He did not name the company, but he said it has operated in and around the VI with 25 years of experience in the industry. He alleged that the bid was disqualified because the company neglected to spell out its bid of $481,000 in words.

Kelvin Thomas, whose business recently secured a contract to install a new HVAC system at the Multi-purpose Sports Complex, shares what it means to him for his family business to have the opportunity. He signed the government contract for $786,000 on Dec. 9. (Screenshot: GOVERNMENT OF THE VIRGIN ISLANDS/FACEBOOK)
Hurricane damage

The 2017 hurricanes damaged the complex’s air conditioning system. The unit was brought back online shortly after the general election in early 2019, but Dr. Wheatley said at the time that the system broke down again two days later.

Dr. Wheatley said the original vendor had told him the damage was so extensive a full replacement would be necessary. In the meantime, the government rented an AC unit from Quality Air Conditioning & Refrigeration for events including the Miss BVI Pageant, cheerleading competitions, graduations, parties and other events.

On Dec. 9, Dr. Wheatley said the cogs of government can sometimes move slowly, especially amid a pandemic, but he was glad to see the system being installed.

He thanked contractor Kelvin Thomas for his efforts to keep the previous system running as long as possible.

The premier said he was encouraged to see VI businesses continue to support hurricane recovery efforts and contribute to economic activity within the territory.

“This is a substantial piece of work that requires a certain degree of competence to get it done. I’m very proud to see that a Virgin Islands service provider has been deemed capable of delivering this project,” Mr. Fahie said to a round of applause from attendees.

He continued, “Some of our athletes are performing and making us proud on the world stage, and this is why your government has devoted attention and resources to restoring our facilities in the communities by introducing the heaviest allocation to our recreational facilities in the 2022 budget than at any time in recent years. Those are the incubators of talent.”

Mr. Fahie said $1 million would be given to the Recreation Trust to support the management of those facilities.

Dr. Wheatley said the trust’s subvention would be increased in 2022 largely because of the work done by board chair Dawn Crabbe-Herbert in recent years to revitalise the organisation.

Though he didn’t list specific projects, Dr. Wheatley anticipated that the government would also focus on repairs to several other recreational facilities in 2022. He thanked Education, Culture, Youth Affairs, Fisheries and Agriculture Ministry Assistant Secretary Lorna Stevens and other members of her team for their efforts to assess the needs of facilities throughout the territory.

“Things are moving in the right direction,” Dr. Wheatley said.

Junior Minister for Tourism Sharie de Castro added, “As we continue to build the economy, we understand that sports have a vital role not just as it relates to health, but as it relates to even looking at sports tourism in the future.”

Junior Minister for Trade and Economic Development Shereen Flax-Charles said as a former member of the BVI national women’s volleyball team who played in sometimes less-than-ideal conditions, she was especially proud to see these facilities being brought to another level.

Mr. Thomas, accompanied by his three sons, said on Dec. 9 that he is thankful for the opportunity to install the new system.

“The tender process was a very intense one, and I cannot remember being through such an intense process before,” he said. “But we engaged the original manufacturer of the chillers and building management system to guide us through the process. We did that because we felt that if we were successful, we wanted to deliver equipment that was at a high standard.”

The equipment will take about three months to build, he said. Once it arrives and is installed, he added, management should have easy control of a very efficient HVAC system.