Gary Griffith

TALKING TURF: Commissioner of Police Gary Griffith gives details about the US$100,000 new CCGrass astroturf that is to be installed by March at the Police Barracks in St James.

—Photo: JERMAINE CRUICKSHANK

COMMISSIONER OF POLICE (CoP) Gary Griffith is overseeing the construction of a US$100,000 (TT $680,000) 3G multi-purpose astroturf at the Police Barracks in St James, as part of his drive to revitalise the base of sports like hockey, football and cricket and an anti-crime move to engage more young people in sports.

In an interview with the Trinidad Express at the CoP’s residence, Griffith - a former national senior’s men’s hockey team manager who was part of the team’s 2002 Central American and Caribbean (CAC) gold medal effort - said the new turf by internationally-renowned synthetic surface manufacturers CCGrass is already in the country and is expected to be completed by March of this year.

Yesterday at the Barracks, contractors were busy levelling the field in preparation for the subsequent laying of the turf.

If the turf is delivered on time, it will be a boon to the preparations of a handful of national hockey teams preparing for international assignments starting in May. It would also compensate for the delay - caused by both governmental bureaucratic processes and the travel restrictions imposed due to the Covid-19 pandemic - in the delivery of the Trinidad and Tobago Hockey Board (TTHB)/Sport Company of Trinidad and Tobago (SporTT) $1.3 million turf. That surface was originally scheduled to be delivered and laid for the 2017 FIH Hockey World League Semi-final Round at the National Hockey Centre in Tacarigua.

Griffith intends to offer the national hockey teams access to the Barracks astroturf and collaborate with the TTHB to have some of their competition games played there. It is the same offer he has made to the national men’s senior team which has been utilising the refurbished North Ground field that borders Long Circular Road for their training sessions.

Griffith also sees this facility assisting in the rejuvenation of hockey’s membership base.

“It will be the first real astroturf that you are seeing...It is difficult for you to train on grass and then go compete on turf. A facility like this here is a win-win situation,” he said.

As opposed to the water-based 2G Polytan astroturf set for Tacarigua, Griffith said he opted for a 3G surface which is thicker but not as thick as the 4G surface used by hundreds of football academies in England.

He classed the new turf as the potentially the best one in the country because of the wider range of sport that will be able to be facilitated on the surface, compared to the NHC one and the severely-deteriorated surface at Marvin Lee Stadium.

“This is what is needed more than anything else because from January to June our football fields will turn to dust and from July to December, they turn to mud,” said Griffith, who played club level hockey for Queen’s Park (QPCC). “You can play on it and utilise it for the development of young players and national teams on a 24 hours a day (schedule) - hockey (local, international, club), football and windball cricket tournaments. So this facility here I hope is the start of things to come because it can assist us in sport.”

Griffith also envisions the facility will aid in community-building and crime-reduction by giving opportunities at virtually little to no cost.

In the months following the completion of the turf, Griffith also plans to build a main pavilion that will include four change rooms and have the ability to facilitate home and away games.

Hockey stakeholders were excited about the new facility.

“It is a big, big plus,” Glen “Fido” Francis, head coach of the men’s senior outdoor team, told the Express. “It will re-activate the game in Port of Spain which is a bigger hub and free up the next turf for more development of the game.”

Francis also believed the Barracks turf will make the game more visible, as it borders the Western Main Road, and thus can attract more interest in the sport.

“So kudos to the Commissioner for doing a brilliant job. I really, really wish it could come next month so we could start back our training but it will help our junior teams,” Francis said, adding he hoped to see additional turfs laid in Tobago and South also.

Head coach of the men’s senior indoor team Raphael Govia said the CoP’s intervention is an eye-opener for all schools who may see the benefit of using their fund-raisers to invest in such a facility.

“It will be a busy Barracks when the project is finished. By putting in this type of all-purpose surface, the Commissioner is touching so many people,” Govia said, “,..It can handle weathering, it is low budget and easier to maintain and it is a blessing in disguise.”

National junior men’s head coach Darren Cowie called it a game-changer.

“Because if we are indeed given access to consistent usage then it allows us to expand even more on the technical skills we want to develop,” Cowie explained, “And I guess the stars would be starting to align nicely for us as this news of a possible March completion of the turf coincides well with the delay of the Under-21 competition from April to August 2021, giving us more turf time to prepare.”

Cowie added Griffith had a particular love for hockey, given his previous involvement at club and national level ,”but for him and his team to offer something like that to national teams shows he wants the sport to succeed.”

A Whatsapp message sent to TTHB president/SporTT chairman Douglas Camacho seeking reaction to the Barracks turf went unanswered.

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