Multi-purpose center opens in Gardens

A view of the Kenneth “Wriggler” King Multi-Purpose Sports Complex which officially opend on Monday.

During its glorious days, for many sports lovers especially basketball addicts it was their version of the world’s most famous arena—Madison Square Gardens located in the heart of New York City.
Although our own Gardens located on the Darling Road in downtown Castries can never be compared with the one in the Big Apple, once upon time it was a Mecca for sports. After what seems like an eternity, the good old days are back at the Gardens following the refurbishment of the grounds at a cost of $1.2 million.  This revamped Multi-Purpose Sports Complex named in honour of the late Kenneth “Wriggler” King who was a pioneer and a driving force in the sport, was declared open during an official ceremony Monday afternoon.
Distinguished guests at the opening included Prime Minister, Stephenson King; His Excellency, Ambassador Government of China/Taiwan, Tom Chou; Parliamentary Representative for Castries Central, Richard Frederick; Minister of Sports, Lenard Montoute other ministers of government, staff of the Castries City Council and Ministry of Youth and Sports; and family members of the late Kenneth “Wriggler” King. Gilroy Hall was the MC.

The unveiling of a plaque for the Kenneth “Wriggler” King Multi-Purpose Sports Complex. On the left is family member Louise King followed by Prime Minister Stephenson King and Ambassador Tom Chou. On the right (front) is Minister of Sports Lenard Montoute followed by Eloi Jahrantee King and Central Castries’ Richard Frederick.

In her opening remarks, Saralee Williams of the Department of Youth and Sports who played a key role in the refurbishment of the facility, highlighted the importance and rich tradition of the Gardens. She called it “the umbilical cord of social and sporting development in Castries Central.”
Minister Montoute said the facility can be used for basketball, volleyball, tennis, netball and mall goals football. He announced that the world class tennis facility at Beausejour which has been used sparingly, will be fully operational sometime this month after officially being turned over to the National Tennis Association Incorporated.
During his brief remarks, Ambassador Chou, complimented workers for their high degree of skill in completing the facility and said “I am proud to be associated with this great project.”
He went on to say: “This is an important facility for the residents of Castries. It will help them discover their sporting talent and even have an impact on crime prevention.”
Minister Frederick referred to the occasion as historic”and said “although this facility existed many years ago, bringing it to the standard it is today is like a dream come true for me personally.”
He pointed out it was an odious task getting the area vacant for the project, which he said “was compounded by rumours which stemmed from a political base, that the intention was not to do what we see here today.”
The minister told the gathering: “I am not easily derailed and remained steadfast knowing there would be light at the end of the tunnel.”
Frederick thanked the Government of China/Taiwan for their generous contribution and said: “It is projects like this from which much social benefit is derived, that can be implemented without more pressure on the public purse which has to be used for competing uses for funding.”
The minister called for all users of the facility to take care of it and treat it as their own. With representation from the Department of Youth and Sports and other stakeholders, a management committee is set up to oversee and manage the use of the facility.
Frederick thanked everyone who assisted with the project including LUCELEC who donated the lights for the facility which otherwise would have cost $200,000.
The proceedings became sombre when the minister thanked the contractors— included among them was Jean Paul alias Kelly, who was gunned down on January 8 near his home at Morne Du Don. In remembrance, there was a minute silence for Kelly who was buried this week.
Attorney General and Minister for Justice, Rudolph “Doddy” Francis, is a beneficiary of Kenneth “Wriggler” King’s coaching from a beginner’s level to the national team. Following are excerpts from his speech about the life times of Wriggler.
“Born in the Caribbean on March 5, 1947, Kenneth King was expected to follow in the footsteps of his father Edward King, who was a sailor by profession. He enjoyed the normal Caribbean childhood which included a keen interest in sports, especially basketball. At the age of 12 Kenneth left Barbados  for St Lucia  and four years later he migrated to England where his basketball interest and talent began to blossom.
Upon his return to the Caribbean at age 24, he was aboard his father’s boat which capsized and left the entire crew stranded at sea for five days before being rescued by a passing ship.
His agile and cunning manoeuvring on the basketball court earned him the nickname  “Wriggler” and the admiration of the youth of Central Castries. Eager to assist the youth develop, Wriggler began organizing  coaching clinics at the Gardens for youngsters in the early 80’s and produced a cadre of talented players  which included the likes of  Ricky “Skecky” Estwick, Terry Gibson, the Reggie and the Modeste brothers.
Kenneth “Wriggler” King was the driving force behind basketball for many years and up until his passing never refused his services to the youth of St Lucia, in particular those in and around Castries.
“Midget” {Michael Pierre of the Department of Youth and Sports} finally all you taking care of the Gardens. I eh need no court named after me, I just hope that de youts will get a chance to do their ting. Midget boy all you finally wake up! Praise Jah!”
Formal Proceedings came to a close with the unveiling of a plaque and closing remarks by Augustin King (brother of the late Kenneth “Wriggler” King), the Prime Minister followed by the vote of thanks by area resident Christopher Lamontagne.

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