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From Grass to Regupol: The Story of the Mona Bowl
By Jheanelle Hemmings

The Mona Bowl is an institution that is as old and established as the University of the West Indies (UWI), Mona itself. Founded when the then University College of the West Indies was just ten years old, the Bowl has seen many championships, been the site of many battles and has taught many generations of UWI students how to handle themselves on the field of play.

The Mona Bowl is the home of the UWI Mona's sporting facilities and offerings, with the indoor gymnasium being the first facility to be constructed under the patronage of Keith Gardner, the first Director of Sports at the University. Subsequently, the Bowl began to expand and now both athletes and spectators can have the use of various sporting facilities, namely, the cricket grounds, named in honour of a great West Indies cricketer, Sir Frank Worrell, the Olympic sized swimming pool, the three football fields suited for various levels of competition, the netball and tennis courts, the rugby field and the 400m grass track considered the best of its kind in the island. The idea that the Mona Bowl could be transformed into a facility which could meet international standards was translated from a dream into a thought and was planted as a seed which has borne fruit. In 1998, a thought being planted was that of the development of a Sports Complex, a mini stadium that would incorporate both track and field and football facilities. The funds needed to facilitate such a project would of course pose a challenge to those who had the idea, but at the time the vision of a Mondo¬©  track became more than a dream, it became a vision.

As captivating as the vision was, as with any major project challenges presented themselves along the way. It was felt there was a lack of major understanding, of  the vision and those who needed to see the vision were unable to see how it could be a reality, so for a while the vision  remained a thought,.  Four years later, in 2002, there was a breakthrough initiated by an association with Harvard University. Individuals involved in the Mona Campus Master Plan undertook a course in Sports Facility Development and subsequently worked with architects to initiate talks about the development of the Mona Bowl. With the major stakeholders of the institution now finally buying into the vision there was recognition that the powers that be were finally recognizing the importance of the Sporting Complex, as well as the need for not just a mini stadium but a multipurpose arena, which would increase the use of the facilities at the Bowl and would play a major role in developing Sports at the UWI.

Twelve years later, the track is a reality, of course not without some major help from the world's fastest man, The Honourable Usain St. Leo Bolt and the German track manufacturers BSW Regupol.  After his legendary performances on the world's track and field stage, the German track manufacturers launched discussions with Racers Track Club and the UWI about presenting Bolt with a track of his own after learning that he trained on the grass track of the Mona Bowl. Although the track was not the initial track envisioned in 1998 there was no hesitation, the Regupol track was in fact the best of its kind, not just world class but in fact the best anywhere in the world.  Thus, a facility of world class stature was made available for the athletes of the Racers Track Club, The UWI Track and Field Team, the IAAF High Performance Training Centre and for Track and Field events at the Mona Bowl. The track has eight lanes and is similar to the one which was used in the Berlin World Championship Stadium, which is blue with white lines. The Regupol Athletic Track was presented to Bolt on April 30, 2010, and took approximately six months to be completed. With plans well under way for the development of a Centre for Sporting Excellence at the Mona Bowl in the works, the newly laid one year old track is a major step in that direction.

However even with the completion of the track there is cause for concern because the next phase of the development which includes a 6,000 seat mini stadium, with lighting and a football academy (a partnership with the Jamaica Football Federation and Caribbean Institute of Sports Medicine) has been stalled.  The mini-stadium should be financed through part sponsorship from the UWI and from private investors. According to former Head of The UWI Mona Sports Department, (now Director of Sports Development in the Office of the Principal) Grace Jackson, the mini-stadium is not a difficult task to complete but the economic climate is very challenging. Even though the mini-stadium is an easy sell, Jackson states that the financial challenges prevent sponsors from investing. In spite of the setbacks and challenges Jackson states that the stadium is scheduled to be completed in another year and a half.

In furthering the mandate of The University, the Mona Bowl for Sporting Excellence will be completed on a phased basis.  The project is being carried out as a collaborative venture through the Office of the Principal, the Sports Department and the Campus Projects Office.  So far the Plan has yielded the following fruits:

  1. The Memorandum of Understanding with the Jamaica Football Federation to bring about a Football Academy
  2. The UWI/Usain Bolt Track
  3. The Beach Volleyball/Football Court
  4. Rehabilitation of the  Olympic sized Swimming Pool
  5. Rehabilitation of The Sir Frank Worrell Cricket Complex
  6. The Tennis Courts
  7. The Netball Courts
  8. Multi-purpose Complex
  9. Rugby Field

The project will include renovation of the respective areas along with the establishment of first class facilities for Sports at the Mona Bowl. The track and mini-stadium are not the only developments to be seen at the Mona Bowl as drawings are now ready for the multipurpose complex. However funding is a major issue and unlike the mini stadium the multipurpose complex has to be completed in one phase. The cricket pitch is also set for some improvements. The developers are also looking to create a physical arena to compliment the excellent pitch available at the Bowl.

UWI being a major advocate for national and regional development is intent on raising the standards of the Mona Bowl to compete with the best in the world. The vision is to now be able to have world class athletes at UWI facilities and to motivate student athletes at the UWI, Mona to improve to world class standards. The new vision will give student athletes the confidence to aspire to compete at the international level. With the development of the Bowl, the UWI will be able to lift the standard of sports on campus as it seeks to continue its contribution to national and regional development.

Jheanelle Hemmings is a Student worker in the Sports Department