State must get return on facilities

Editorial, Normal

The National, Tuesday July 28th, 2015

 THE XV Pacific Games has come and gone, bringing with it many changes. The Government’s biggest contribution to the event was the building and upgrading of facilities located around the capital city.

The three main projects that cost a large portion of K1.2 billion allocated for the Games will no doubt benefit the sports and ensure that Papua New Guinean sportsmen and women can train and compete at venues that are on par with those in other developed countries.  

But one cannot escape the fact that these brand new facilities could be a burden on the state in the long run.

The formation of the National Sports Trust limited to manage the venues is the only way forward for the state in order to see that the money spent is not wasted with the facilities falling into disrepair.

To that end, the public must appreciate that in business the customer gets what he or she pays for. Now that the city has a range of high quality facilities ready for sport they must appreciate that they have to help offset the cost of running and maintaining these structures, fields, pools, courts and stages.  

The Sir John Guise Stadium, including its indoor facility as well as the other playing areas at that location; the Taurama Aquatic Centre and the Bisini Sports Complex are the three big projects that the state has invested in but the people must understand that the cost of their upkeep will rest in part with them.

The Taurama Aquatic Centre cost K190 million based on initial projections and will cost at least several million yearly to be maintained and managed to a degree that will allow it to retain its status as an international standard facility for swimming, volleyball and basketball.

That means the corporate community, sports, fans and even world sports bodies and other international organisations will be required to foot some of the bill through the use of the venue, advertising, competitions. If the centre was charging K10 per person to a watch an event during the Games, one can expect to be an equivalent amount or more likely something exceeding that in the future.

The same can be said for the other venues that have building costs in the millions of kina. If they are not money makers for the state or whoever is tasked to manage them then they run the risk of becoming financial sinkholes. 

The NST will work with the codes as well as world sports bodies to run major events and schedule other revenue earning programmes to see the venues become self-sustaining rather than a sizable drain on the annual budget.

History has shown that public venues and infrastructure have always suffered from neglect or in some cases abandonment much to the detriment of the communities and individuals and groups who may have otherwise benefited from them. After the 1991 Pacific Games in Port Moresby and Lae, the Sir John Guise indoor and outdoor facilities were allowed to get rundown because of neglect. 

In short, governments after 1991 were either too busy trying to manage the country’s other priority areas starting with the economy and crucial services that underpin it like health, education, law and order,  transport infrastructure and so on, that maintaining and upgrading a set of sports facilities was way down the list of things to do.

But sport has grown to be­come more than just a pastime or a pursuit for pleasure and recreation. Today the emphasis on sport, especially in relation to major international events has helped usher many of the country’s elite athletes into a semi-professional existence. 

Product endorsements, payments for gold medal winning efforts and other incentives are now tied in with performance and being good on the world stage.

The same logic can be applied to the venues that have been built. The country has reached a certain level as a sporting nation and the challenge is now on maintaining that stature.

Sports are already queuing up to host regional and international competitions, events and tournaments simply because the country is now in a position to do so.

Port Moresby stands on the verge of becoming a sporting hub in the Oceania region but that will all depend on how it comes off the high of the Games and the general feeling of confidence it engendered in the host nation.