After a decade and a half of discussion and modifications by several administrations, the Paul E. Joseph Stadium portion of the Frederiksted Revitalization Project was launched Thursday.
According to Gov. Kenneth E. Mapp, when the cruise ships threatened to leave St. Croix in the early 2000’s, then-Gov. Charles W. Turnbull formed a committee that concluded that renovations and new infrastructure in Frederiksted could avert the departure of thousands of tourists. Mapp was director of the V.I. Public Finance Authority at the time and part of the committee.
Stakeholders hope the development will create jobs, attract tourists and sports teams and inspire the youth of the territory to pursue sports careers.
“It will be a product residents and visitors will enjoy for many generations. It will improve town and the village. Everyone of us will benefit,” said Pedro Cruz, commissioner of V.I. Sports, Parks and Recreation, the agency that will manage the completed sports complex.
In 2012, $35 million was approved to fund the project through bond debt and in June, almost $500,000 was allocated to purchase surrounding land.
After town hall meetings and much discussion, Gov. John deJongh Jr. signed a contract for $20 million in 2014 with General Engineering Corporation to rebuild the stadium and sports complex.
After Mapp took office, he put a halt on the project in February 2015, contending that the contract would provide a $10 million stadium for $20 million. During Thursday’s groundbreaking ceremony, Mapp said the original contract contained no construction plans, “just elements.”
Through negotiations with GEC, plans now include the stadium, a festival village, a softball field, basketball and tennis courts, soccer fields and new roads.
Mapp approved resuming work in October 2015, giving GEC 120 days to complete demolition and provide 60 percent of the overall design. Since then, the only progress has been the removal of the old structure, frustrating many St. Croix senators. (See related link, below.)
During his remarks, Mapp commented there was no blame placed on the company for the project’s delay.
He also pointed out the project will now cost $27 million due to the flood mitigation plan that will included Estate LaGrange, the stadium complex and Frederiksted town. Mapp told senators on the dais he will request the additional $7 million soon.
“I know where the cash is,” he added.
A flood mitigation plan was an important component for the project and Mapp said the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers laid out the plan and provided some funding.
The first phase of the revitalization plan included rebuilding the Strand Street waterfront, renovations to the Ann Abrahamson Pier and paving the road to the Vincent Mason Pool.
The third phase of the project will included improvements to Prince and King Streets, soccer fields and expanded public beaches, according to R. Harvey Sasso, of Coastal Systems Development, Inc., the project designer.
“We are not trying to build a stadium, we are trying to revitalize the town of Frederiksted and the island of St. Croix,” Mapp said.
The ground-breaking ceremony was attended by commissioners, senators and other government officials and more than 200 spectators, many from Frederiksted, who cheered for the project and governor several times.
Other speakers included Delegate to Congress Stacey Plaskett, Lt. Governor Osbert Potter, Senate President Myron Jackson and Alphonso Franklin, president of Our Town Frederiksted. Sasso and John Wessel, GEC president, also offered comments.