The global COVID-19 pandemic has slowed the realization of a Virgin Islands Olympic Committee headquarters, which would serve a dual purpose as a sports complex and a Federal Emergency Management Agency approved shelter. The dome shape of the proposed facility would be built to withstand Category 5 hurricanes, tornadoes, earthquakes, fires and extreme winds upwards of 250 miles per hour.
Olympic Committee President Angel Morales told Finance Committee members Thursday his entity has already consulted with contractors, senators, and FEMA about the $2 million project and submitted a request to Pan Am Sports for the release of $400,000. To acquire land for the facility to be built, the Olympic Committee would also need to ask for additional funding from the Legislature. But Morales said FEMA funds could be applied for, and up to 75 percent of the cost would be covered.
If enough funds are procured, Morales said, the Olympic Committee would like to put a facility on both St. Thomas and St. Croix. The entity is currently looking at land on each island, but initially would like to build on St. Thomas since its hotels can support more people traveling to the territory to attend sporting events.
“It’s a facility that is quickly built,” and the speed to market would be swift, Morales said. “This will be a facility that will serve not only the sporting community but also the people of the Virgin Islands.”
The sports complex would be designed to host a variety of sporting events and be in line with the territory’s budding sports tourism industry.
Once built, Morales said, the committee would like to name the center The Virgin Islands Olympic Center and make it available to all territorial athletes, regardless of what sport they play.
The initial renderings include an interior space that is round and places seating around the perimeter, a track, locker rooms, concession and reception areas, training and weight rooms, and media boxes. The three companies that have teamed up to visualize and engineer the project are Domtec International, Omni-Threat Structures, and Resin Architecture.
“The VIOC and our member federations can play a major role in developing the sport tourism industry in the Virgin Islands. When attending regional meetings our members can submit proposals to host regional competitions and championships, however we must have facilities that meet international standards. It is time to complete our sports facilities. These facilities will increase visitors to our islands and help in the economic development of our Virgin Islands,” Morales said.
Morales said many Olympic Committee member federations are deterred from hosting events in the territory because of the high cost set by the University of the Virgin Islands for use of their facilities.
Finance Committee members generally supported the plans of the Olympic Committee Thursday, and many senators expressed enthusiasm for the center.
All committee members – Sens. Janelle Sarauw, Kurt Vialet, Marvin Blyden, Oakland Benta, Allison DeGazon, Dwayne DeGraff, and Donna Frett-Gregory – were present for the finance hearing.