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Legislation Would Create Sports Commission

A new government-sponsored volunteer commission with broad duties and powers to write sports policy in the territory may be created to work within the Department of Sports, Parks and Recreation, if a bill being considered by the Legislature becomes law.

The bill sponsored by Sen. Myron Jackson would create a "V.I. Sports Commission" comprising the commissioners of Sports, Parks and Recreation, of Tourism and of Education; the president of the V.I. Olympic Committee; the Economic Development Commission director; the chairs of the V.I. horse racing, boxing, wrestling and car racing commissions; and "one person from the private sector appointed by the governor." [Bill 30-0418]

It would be tasked with creating a comprehensive V.I. sports and sports tourism policy; creating a V.I. Sports Hall of Fame; developing an array of sports policies and guidelines; promoting elite athletic recruitment; setting training standards; and promoting sports and sports coverage in the territory. It would also be tasked with instituting a "program for the collection, management and retention of sports records," which is cited as a long-neglected need in the bill’s preamble.

Sports, Parks and Recreation officials and representatives of sporting groups testified in support of a comprehensive sports policy and of the bill’s general aims.

"It will give us a formal and systematic framework for sports in the islands," said John Abramson, vice president of the V.I. Olympic Committee. He and the other testifiers pointed to a number of amendments they would like to see, but Abramson said the committee is "fully in support of a national sports policy."

Ron Harrigan, president of the V.I. University Sports Federation, said there is a “need for coherence and coordination with regards to the development of sports and related programs."

"The public and private sector need to be brought together through policy development in order to maximize the potential that the Virgin Islands have to develop elite athletes and provide physical health programs for the community," Harrigan said.

Abramson and several others raised concerns about paying for it and whether the commission’s mandate may be too broad for its likely resources, while others advised creating the commission first, and then to let it seek funding.

"Of course the elephant in the room is the issue of funding. There is always the issue of funding," Abramson said.

Harrigan suggested that if the commission is created now, money can be found later.

At Jackson’s request, the committee approved a motion from Sen. Janette Millin Young to hold the bill in committee while amendments are drafted.

The committee voted to approve a resolution honoring volleyball player Megan Hodge. [Bill 30-0395] Hodge, a St. Thomas native, won the silver medal representing the U.S. team in the 2012 Summer Olympics. The resolution will be voted on next in the Rules and Judiciary Committee.

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