Light masts on at Cruyff Court, Juliana Sports Field improved | THE DAILY HERALD

Turning on the lights at Johan Cruyff Court in The Bottom with (from left) Dave Levenstone, sports coordinators Lauren Risley and Joelyn Robinson, Commissioner Rolando Wilson and Will Johnson.

SABA–Two events took place for the advancement of sports in Saba on Friday, February 19, and Saturday, February 20, when the light masts at Johan Cruyff Court were officially turned on and the upgraded Juliana Sports Field was inaugurated with netball and basketball tournaments.

  Commissioner Rolando Wilson, together with Will Johnson and Dave Levenstone of Man-O-War Ground Foundation and sports coordinators Joelyn Robinson and Lauren Risley, switched on the lights at Cruyff Court on Friday afternoon. It was a special moment, not only because now people can practise sports in the evening hours, but because it had taken a while for the light masts project to be completed.


Commissioner Rolando Wilson on Johan Cruyff Court with young soccer players.

There was insufficient funding for light masts when the court was constructed more than 10 years ago. This meant that many sports activities were shortened because of the lack of visibility after the sun had gone down. Commissioner Wilson took State Secretary of Public Health, Welfare and Sport Paul Blokhuis to the field during his visit to Saba in June 2018.

  “I explained to him that Saba’s Johan Cruyff Court too needed lights and should not be seen as different from the rest of the world, because there is a lot of great talent on the island. He understood the need for the lights and we presented a project file to him,” Wilson said.

  The lights were arranged with Blokhuis’ and Johan Cruyff Foundation’s assistance, and a donation for the LED floodlights by Signify, formerly Philips Lighting. However, the right poles were lacking.

  The poles needed to be hurricane-proof and arranging for them took some time. Then came the COVID-19 pandemic, which caused further delay.

  The electrical works on the light masts were completed early February. Some more upgrading still has to take place to completely level the court. Wilson said this would be done in a couple of months. “I was so pleased to see the lights go on. This will make it possible to play football and baseball in the evening hours.”

  Johnson elaborated on the history of what is now called Johan Cruyff Court. It started with Lynne Johnson arranging soccer lessons for young boys on an open, cleared spot in Booby Hill around 1999. When the rental agreement in Booby Hill ended, then-Commissioner Johnson spoke to then-Minister Leo Chance about buying the piece of land, locally known as Man-O-War Ground, to create a new sports field.

  Man-O-War Ground Foundation was created to collect funds to buy the property, with Johnson and Levenstone as board members. The land was purchased and the field constructed with the support of donors and Johan Cruyff Foundation.

  “We are happy that many organisations and young people are making use of this field, and proud that the Juliana Sports Field is being put to good use. Long live Saba and her people, who never give up when pursuing a goal,” said Johnson, giving thanks to the Dutch government for providing the necessary funds.

  Juliana Sports Field, in existence since the 1970s, was upgraded over the past years with financial assistance from then-Antillean agencies Sede Antia and Reda Sosial.

  The Public Works Department gave the field a fresh layer of paint in December, and basketball rims were purchased with funding from Sports Prevention Accord, the Public Health and Sports budget and BES(t)4Kids.

  The new basketball facilities were put to good use on Saturday evening during the three-on-three tournament. Ten teams, each with three persons ages 12 years and up, signed up for the competition.

  At the start of the symbolic opening of the renovated sports field, Saba Gems netball team showed their talent. This was the first time the team had played a game on this field, also in an effort to generate more interest for this sport, which is relatively new to Saba.

  Saturday’s event drew a large crowd. “We had almost full bleachers. The basketball players asked when we will organise a tournament again,” said Public Health and Sports project leader Lauren Risley.

  “There is no one happier than this commissioner to see this upgrade materialised. We invest a lot in our youth,” said Wilson, who called on people to take good care of both sports fields. “They are our own. Value them.”

Source: The Daily Herald