For the first time since being sworn in as the Minister of Youth, Sports and Culture, the Honorable Mario Bowleg made his first official visit to Grand Bahama in that capacity.
The veteran basketball coach-turned Member of Parliament for Garden Hills (New Providence) met with staff members at the Ministry of Youth, Sports and Culture Grand Bahama, October 4. Bowleg listened to concerns expressed by staff members during a brief staff meeting. Shortly afterwards, the contingent began touring facilities on the island related to the Ministry.
Bowleg and his delegation, which included Director of Sports Tim Munnings and Parliamentary Secretary for the MYSC Eugene Poitier, were given a tour by Culture Affairs Officer Monique Lightbourne-Leary. During the tour, the team surveyed possible office spaces to house staffers. The head office was destroyed during Hurricane Dorian.
Later Bowleg and his team were met by the Minister for Grand Bahama and Member of Parliament for Pineridge Ginger Moxey to view the Grand Bahama Sports Complex.
Bowleg noted that not only was it important to see the facilities on the island, it was necessary to meet the staff on the island to discover ways to make the ministry the top industry in the country.
The minister said he believes strongly that MYSC is a vital component in moving The Bahamas forward.
“We talk about the youth being our future, and, we talk about the impact sports brings to a country. I believe more focus needs to be on this ministry as it relates to impacting this country.
“Presently looking at my staff’s situation (on Grand Bahama), them not even having a place to be since Hurricane Dorian is just ridiculous. So the first thing I want to do is see how best we can put them in some housing. The MYSC Grand Bahama should have its own building.
“We looked at three spots we want to rent and renovate so that they can feel comfortable and feel at home. You don’t want to spend nine hours of the day in a facility that you’re uncomfortable with. That’s one of the first things we want - in order for them to be productive we want to find a facility where they can be placed and feel comfortable.”
Bowleg went on to add that he doesn’t believe the facilities at the GB Sports Complex have been neglected, but rather needs to be improved. Furthermore, he expressed that Grand Bahama should be a “hub,” for major high-class facilities that could potentially attract major sporting events.
“That is also part of the reason I wanted to meet here with the Minister for Grand Bahama, Ginger Moxey, to make sure we partner together and get some PPP’s going and make Grand Bahama’s economy vibrant again through sports, youth and culture.
“Grand Bahama is a sleeping giant. We need this island’s economy to wake back up and I believe my ministry can do a lot, along with Tourism, and the Ministry for Grand Bahama to get this done.”
As it pertains to sports, Bowleg said he is looking to foster a better relationship between the ministry and the athletes. Touching briefly on the topic of subvention for the athletes, he discussed the need for developmental subventions for up and coming athletes
“Some of these subventions are in place but are not suitable for the level of the athletes. We need developmental subventions for athletes we feel are diamonds in the rough, up and coming at the high school levels.
“Sometimes there are athletes out there who just don’t have it (money). Unless a high school coach steps in and financially to support, the athlete may drift away and fall through the cracks.
“We as a ministry need to provide that type of subvention for developmental athletes, provide subvention for the professional athletes so they can get the necessary training that they need to sustain their level of performance.
“When you look at Stevie Gardiner and Shaunae Miller-Uibo winning gold medals, in The Bahamas we need to make sure they are financially stable to pay for their training and maintain that level so we can get that exposure from them.
“Being a former athlete, coach and president of the (basketball) federation, I understand the pains these coaches, athletes, and federations feel. Once we improve our relationship with them all, we will have a better flow of how sports is operated in this country.”
Bowleg concluded that he could not give a timeframe on when sports in the country will resume but believes non-contact sports should be able to be played in short order.
“Of course, we want to get advice from our Minister of Health, which is Dr. Michael Darville and from the Prime Minister (The Most Honorable Philip “Brave” Davis). When we believe COVID is under control, because the health of the country is of the utmost importance, I believe the non-contact sports can resume shortly.
“We’re just asking the federations to provide the strategic protocols that they would put in place that would satisfy the Minister of Health and his team for non-contact sports,” he concluded.
In her capacity as Minister for Grand Bahama, Moxey stated that she believes in the vision Bowleg has for Grand Bahama and publicly gave her support.
"Grand Bahama has been challenged. In the youth, sports and culture areas, especially the creative industry, music industry - we've been devastated. So we are so happy that we have a minister who has made it a point to come to Grand Bahama so early, to be able to communicate with his staff and see the facilities, and see what we're challenged with on the island.
"We know that the Progressive Liberal Party has a plan - for the orange economy (technology), creative industry, and the sports industry. We look forward to making things happen for all three phases."