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Reconstruction of Simon Culture Centre to begin in the coming weeks

Infrastructure Development Minister Norland Cox: redesigning efforts has delayed the start of the project

With general election fast approaching, the Keith Mitchell-led New National Party (NNP) regime is anxious to showpiece a major sporting facility in the St. Andrew area.

According to Infrastructure Development Minister, Senator Norland Cox, a billboard will be erected in the coming weeks to showcase the redesign, and concept of the much-delayed new Simon Culture Centre which was destroyed by Hurricane Ivan in 2004 and has been in the pipeline for reconstruction since 2016.

In providing an update on the EC$18 million project during the government’s weekly post-cabinet briefing in St. George’s on Tuesday, Minister Cox said the new design comprises a multi-storey pavilion with a seating capacity of 2, 500, a museum that will feature sporting, and cultural icons, a stage area that will be constructed separately, and a parking area.

“There will be standing and seating capacity (and) an area for training, dancing (and) theatre – things like that,” said the senior government minister who revealed that “a 25-meter pool” is also included in the project design, however will not be undertaken in the immediate scope of work.

“…That is something that we are looking at,” said the government minister, who went on to explain that the new design will also include commercial space for small business activities.

He confirmed that the contractor, Kenny’s Trucking Ready Mix and Equipment Services, is currently in the mobilisation stage, and is expected to start work on the project in the coming weeks.

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The people of St. Andrew have been looking on with anticipation since October 2016, when the then Member of Parliament for St Andrew North-east, Roland Bhola announced that work was set to commence on the Simon Cultural Center, which once served as the premier base for cultural activities in the parish.

The project went out for tender five (5) years later in June last year, and Sen. Cox said the intent was to get it up and running “on or before the end of the year (2021)” with the possibility of seeing carnival activities hosted at Simon this year.

However, he told reporters that this is “seemingly not likely” as the project was unforeseeably delayed for the purpose of “redesigning.”

When Sen. Cox provided an update on the project in Parliament last month, Opposition Senator Matthew Joseph had voiced concern that “culturally, over the years we have gone into decline” and suggested that “structures are put in place so that there will be activities taking place.”

“I know none of us here would like to see a white elephant being laid up at Simon,” said Sen. Joseph.

“In my days, we used to be doing square dancing”, added Sen. Joseph, who also advocated for the new stage to “have sufficient room to accommodate a steel band,” which he noted “is very key to our cultural development and heritage.”

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