ST. CROIX — The Paul E. Joseph Stadium, if all goes as planned, will be completed by early 2021, according to Coastal Systems USVI, which represents the Mapp administration in the development of the stadium. While the timeline will be six years after the project had its first groundbreaking event in December of 2014, Coastal Systems USVI Director of Operations, Tim Dempsey, assured The Consortium that the wait will be worth it.
For roughly half an hour on Wednesday inside a Fort Frederik room, The Consortium met with stakeholders of the project, including representatives of the Department of Planning and Natural Resources, Department of Public Works, GEC, LLC, the contractor of phase 1 of the stadium, along with Mr. Dempsey. There, Mr. Dempsey gave this reporter an overview of the amount of work that has so far gone into the design of the project, in an effort to dismantle what Mr. Dempsey and other stakeholders consider to be the myth that work on the stadium has stalled.
When the contract was first approved by the de Jongh administration, it was greenlighted without a design. Following the halting of construction by Governor Kenneth Mapp upon taking office in 2015, a new agreement was renegotiated with GEC, LLC, with Coastal Systems USVI being brought on to aid the Mapp administration in assuring quality and helping with design and other pertinent matters relative to the project. Indeed, Mr. Dempsey of Coastal Systems USVI led the discussion on Wednesday.
Mr. Dempsey went through each page of the design, giving insight with each turned page to emphasize that a lot of work has been performed — even if the current site’s only display is a pile of dirt 40 feet high.
Speaking of the pile of dirt, Mr. Dempsey said GEC, LLC, following the stadium’s second ground-breaking event in July 2017, immediately went to work piling it up, which he said is one of the most crucial component of the stadium’s development. He said the pile of dirt currently on the site represents the equivalent of what the stadium’s weight will be. Atop the 40-foot pile are steel bars that go straight down into the dirt with plates at the bottom used to measure how much sink is occurring. Currently the site continues to sink, the stakeholders said. If this continues and does not stop, the location would probably be abandoned, as building in sinking ground would lead to cracks in the structure and make it prone to collapse. The dirt must sit on the site for 90 days, after which the developers will determine whether an extra 30 days will be needed. Mr. Dempsey and others expect the sinking to eventually stop, but they stressed the importance of the current process — even if it seems like nothing is happening.
“If you don’t let those plates finish settling, the stadium is going to do it for you, and it will crack and I’ve seen it on several structures. What this procedures does is it ensures that the settlement and movement are done before you start putting your structures,” said James Grum, capital improvements program engineering administrator at the Department of Public Works.
The current process is roughly 21 days in. Mr. Dempsey said once the 90-day period is complete and a determination is made as to whether to add an extra 30 days, or move forward, he expects vertical construction of the project to start in earnest in January 2019. He also said that the project will take two years to complete, which would mean a 2021 grand opening.
The Frederiksted Revitalization Project comes in three phases, with phase 1 being the construction of the stadium, the Terrence Martin softball field and the festival village. The capacity of the stadium will be 3,000, while the softball field will hold 1,700. The capacity of the festival village has not yet been determined, Mr. Dempsey said. The stadium’s second floor will host most of the seating, while the third floor will include an area for the media, including broadcast, a VIP section and a center for a variety of activities, among them receptions, parties, meetings and more. The third floor’s balcony will overlook the beach near Fort Frederik — making for a stellar view.
A look at the project’s latest design, which is 90 percent complete, suggests a facility set to lift Frederiksted’s economic prospects once completed. It promises to host multiple sporting events throughout the year, and Mr. Dempsey spoke of a potential hotel development to compliment the stadium. Entertainment events are also a possibility at the stadium or the smaller, Terrence Martin softball field.
But asked about financing for the project, Mr. Dempsey said “money is always a concern,” and he could not ascertain whether funds would be available for the project’s duration. “That’s a question for the Office of the Governor,” he said.
In August 2017, Mr. Mapp asked the Legislature to authorize and appropriate an additional $9 million to complete what his administration said was phase 2 of the project. Mr. Mapp said the amount previously approved for the project did not include costs of civil engineering requirements to protect persons and property in Frederiksted from flooding. He said that the original authorization — which the administration said in August was $18.65 million, down from $20 million — was not enough.
This took the Paul E. Joseph Stadium situation into confusing territory. In late May of last year, senators approved $480,000, which Mr. Mapp said was needed to acquire additional land to mitigate potential flooding issues, as well as for the enhancement of the stadium for sporting tourism use.
The proposed additional funding was to include $6 million from a Limetree Bay Terminals fund originally designated for construction of tanks to store bitumen, which the administration said was not needed by the company at this time. But Senator Novelle Francis in August of last year requested $3 million from the $6 million to be used to foster mental health care in the community.
And with two Category 5 Hurricanes badly affecting the local economy and the government’s coffers, it remains to be seen where funding will come from.
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