For safety of our athletes, it's time to rehabilitate the Stadium field

fili@samoanews.com

Concerned with the “steady decrepit condition” of the Veterans Memorial Stadium field, where high school football games are played, Gov. Lolo Matalasi Moliga has appointed a three-member task force to carry out resurfacing of the field.

There have been concerns raised with the administration over the condition of the field, which is also used for rugby tournaments and other major events on island. Parents of some high school football players have raised similar concerns with the media, suggesting that the government upgrade the field to ensure the safety of players.

In a Nov. 21st memo appointing the stadium field rehabilitation task force, Lolo said the “steady decrepit condition of the Veterans Stadium field attributed to over utilization is creating a hazardous environment which subjects football players to potential grave injury.”

According to the governor, it appears that the field has not had proper maintenance which accelerated its deterioration. It also appears that the grass surface lacks endurance and durability to withstand constant use for high school and community games.

“There is no option but to resurface the field to mitigate potential hazardous conditions,” Lolo wrote in the memo to cabinet members.

Lolo explained that the primary purpose of the task force is to develop plans and strategies to ascertain the proper surface material for the field, raise funds, and oversee the project’s implementation.

“This is a community project”, said the governor, who told cabinet members that their support is needed and they are to provide such support when assistance is solicited.

“To facilitate proper orchestration and planning to forge the achievement of our resurfacing project,” Lolo named the three-member task force: JR Prep Sports (JPS) Football League president and chief executive officer, Robert Faleafine; Department of Youth & Women’s Affairs director, Jonathan Fanene; and Moeiletuasivi Filipo Ilaoa, the Legislative Liaison for the ASG office in Hawai’i.

At Wednesday’s cabinet meeting, Lolo said he conducted a site visit of the stadium about five weeks ago and found that the field is not in good condition and therefore needs rehabilitation.

He said the field will probably be closed after the current high school football season ends and he estimates that it will take about six to eight months for the rehabilitation project to be completed, whether ASG has money or not — it's something that needs to be done.

Lolo noted that planning has begun for the project, including looking for funding sources. He reminded directors that many American Samoans playing football in the US were “born out of this field” — and therefore the government should not ignore the importance of the field.

STADIUM IMPROVEMENT FUNDING

According to the fiscal year 2018 budget, $200,000 is allocated for Veterans Stadium Improvement and the funding is under the Special Programs category, administered by the Governor’s Office.

The administration notes in budget information sent to the Fono that these funds will support activities dedicated to improving conditions at the Veterans Stadium. Such improvements could be done through purchases of necessary equipment for ground upkeep and repair, and maintenance for both the stadium and the golf course, as well as other operational costs.

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