National Tennis Centre for all

Judging by his expression the President of the SLTA Stephen McNamara (right) could hardly wait to get the keys for the National Tennis Centre following the official handing over by His Excellency Tom Chou (left) to Minister of Sports Lenard Montoute.

Signed, sealed and delivered that was the case on Tuesday when the National Tennis Centre (NTC) at Beausejour, was officially transferred from the Government of Taiwan to the Government of St Lucia, who in turn handed it over to the St Lucia Tennis Association (SLTA).
President of the SLTA, Stephen McNamara, was more than happy to receive the keys to the spanking new facility, which incorporates an administrative building and six outdoor tennis courts.
While there has been some debate as to who is allowed to use the facility taking into consideration its location, McNamara again stressed “it is a national tennis centre and no significance need be placed or should be placed or ought to be placed on the fact it’s located in the extreme north of the island.”
He put the matter to rest by saying “it is the intention of the association, to operate it in a manner which avails the facility to all St Lucians everywhere on this island and it is our attention to see to it.”
As important as it seems, access by the general public is not the association’s top priority when it comes to the NTC.
The SLTA President said: “Our first priority I am afraid to say, is going to have to be maintaining and looking after it properly.”
It won’t be easy. McNamara announced it would likely cost the association about $375,000 a year or roughly $30,000 to $40,000 a month, to keep the NTC operational and properly maintained.
Initially it would be  tough going for the association in that regard, however, McNamara pointed out that there is an arrangement and understanding that government and association would raise the money that is necessary to keep the NTC operating.
Ambassador of the Republic of China (Taiwan), Tom Chou was sympathetic towards the needs of the government and association especially at a time resources are being redirected towards disaster relief on account of Hurricane Tomas.
He told the gathering. “After waiting several months, I decided to ask my government to provide further assistance on financing the running cost of the facility for the first few months until the government approves the subsidy budget for this centre in April. I am pleased to announce that my government has approved EC$90,000 for this purpose.”
The Ambassador feels now that the NTC is completed, playing tennis can no longer be looked upon as a privilege of the elite group of this country and “would like to see membership fees be low and affordable to the ordinary people.”
In delivering the feature address, Minister of Sports, Lenard Montoute, thanked the Ambassador for his country’s generosity and said “I cannot think of a body better placed than the tennis association given their mandate and interest in running the affairs of the NTC.”
While the notion (and rightly so) exists that major sporting facilities (with the exception of George Odlum Stadium) are located in the north, it seems government is at least attempting to spread the wealth. There are plans for the construction of a swimming pool in the south and during Tuesday’s handing over ceremony, Montoute announced that a similar NTC will be built in the south before the end of the year.

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