SCDF requests permission to manage Festival Village

~ SOG disagrees with request ~

PHILIPSBURG–St. Maarten Carnival Development Foundation (SCDF) has written to Prime Minister William Marlin and Minister of Education, Culture, Youth and Sports Silveria Jacobs requesting the opportunity to manage the St. Maarten Festival Village (SFV) indefinitely or via a 10-year lease.

In a press statement from the SCDF board on Thursday, SCDF President Alston Lourens explained to both ministers that the Village unfortunately remains a facility that is not used optimally as a premier venue to host events in St. Maarten.

SCDF is the largest user of the facility annually with the hosting of Carnival, the only time the facility is used to its maximum capacity on all levels. In short, Lourens said, “there is an apparent lack of vision and creativity for the future of the SFV, due largely in part to the fact that it is not managed by an entity with a background in event-management and -hosting.”

Stichting Overheidsgebouwen (SOG), which is charged with the present management of St. Maarten Festival Village, disagrees with the SCDF request and said in an invited comment that SOG is a Government-owned foundation charged with the upkeep of several facilities.

SOG Chairman Kurt Ruan added, “SOG is a 100-per-cent-owned foundation that is charged with the maintenance of Government-owned buildings. We presently own the new Fire and Ambulance building in Cay Hill on behalf of Government. A similar request by SCDF four years ago was denied by then Prime Minister Sarah Wescot Williams because Government was not taking a Government-owned facility from a Government foundation and giving it to an outside foundation.”

Ruan said SOG had offered SCDF in the past the possibility to work together, but no follow-up talks had been held.

“SOG is willing to work with any organisation who would like to organise events in the village. We are, after all, an extension of Government,” he said. He concluded his comments by stating that SOG manages the Simpson Bay Market building and takes its responsibilities serious.

SCDF is requesting the opportunity to be the organisation in charge of the management of the activities in the SFV; take responsibility for the maintenance and further structural development of the SFV; exploit the usage of SFV by event organisers in St. Maarten, the region and internationally; and accommodate Government functions and events in the SFV.

With this in place SCDF can then serve as a facilitator for foreign events and promoters who wish to execute events in St. Maarten; equip the SFV up to modern standards to be able to handle a variety of event types; open the SFV to accommodate many cultural initiatives related to the development of Carnival and culture in general throughout the year; begin the development of the SFV to be able to accommodate conferences as well; and seek to make Carnival and the SFV totally sustainable entities.

These wishes would be executed by using various methods of SCDF’s expertise, including but not limited to drafting a comprehensive plan for attracting users of the SFV and securing corporate sponsors by engaging companies to fulfil their social corporate responsibility mandate. Carnival will be separate.

SCDF further wants to kick off a vibrant advertising campaign as a venue for every event of every size; establish a volunteer coordination plan to involve students and other volunteer workers in the execution of events in the SFV; encourage community involvement in establishing “historical hot spots” in SFV that will feature pieces of St. Maarten history, perhaps even replicas, that can be visited by schools and cruise visitors; and more.

“The SCDF has a proven track record of not only hosting St. Maarten’s largest and most intricate event, Carnival, but our foundation is a professional, creative team of event-management specialists with years of experience producing high-quality events of every type and scale. Our passion is managing the behind-the-scenes details to deliver a superior event experience,” Lourens said.

“St. Maarten’s events and event organisers are in need of a cooperative and innovative venue managed by outside-the-box-thinkers, to assist organisations through the minefield of challenges that currently threaten their funding and social impact.

“Because the standard methods of creating events are not easily trimmed to fit a venue for greater efficiency, solutions for meeting these challenges must be sought in the administrative areas of venue management. In other words, the SFV must become a viable alternative, via new management, to host local and international events.”

Lourens said Government had placed 48 years of trust in the SCDF to develop the country’s largest calendar event. “We now seek Government’s permission in allowing us to finally manage the SFV to its full potential,” he concluded.

Source: The Daily Herald