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Netball season to resume after government brokers deal with schools

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Sports Minister Owen Darrell and Bermuda Netball Association president Kimale Evans at today’s press conference at Cedarbridge Academy (Photograph Colin Thompson)

The netball season will resume this weekend after the government stepped in to broker a deal with a number of schools to provide courts on a temporary basis.

The season came to a grinding halt late last month when the Department of Youth, Culture and Sport closed the government-owned courts at Bernard Park in the wake of health and safety concerns raised by the Bermuda Netball Association over erosion to the asphalt surface .

With the season in jeopardy of being scrapped, a temporary solution has been found for both training and games to continue thanks to a collaboration between the BNA, Whitney Institute Middle School, CedarBridge Academy and the ministry.

“I am happy to announce a temporary solution for the BNA to resume their Saturday leagues thanks to Whitney Middle School and CedarBridge Academy, who have generously offered to share their facilities until the end of the season,” said Owen Darrell, the Minister of Youth, Culture and Sport.

Whitney Institute will host junior league games on their outdoor courts with all senior league fixtures taking place at CedarBridge Academy’s indoor gymnasium.

The Department of Youth and Sport will assist with marking the courts and providing bleachers and equipment to Whitney Institute, while they continue to assess the extent of the required repairs at Bernard Park and devise a most effective course of action.

“With more than 400 registered players on island, netball is a huge sport for Bermuda and those who use our courts at Bernard Park have suffered setbacks to their practice for far too long,” the minister added.

“Before this most recent closure a series of vandalism acts in recent years, coupled with social-distancing requirements enforced over the pandemic, has made it very difficult for players to maintain their practice comfortably and safely.

L to R: back row: Cedarbridge Academy Board Chairman and Government MP Jason Wade, Education Minister Diallo Rabain, Bermuda Netball Association president Kimale Evans, Sports Minister Owen Darrell, BNA project manager Tahkeesha Welch, Whitney Middle School principal Reeshema Swan (Photograph Colin Thompson)

“I wish to assure the public that the Ministry of Youth, Culture and sport values the importance of netball to our community and we are committed to finding a permanent solution that will meet the needs of all parties.

“While this is still an ongoing project, I am grateful to the public and all invested parties for their patience and collaboration as we continue working together to support our local athletes.”

Kimale Evans, the Bermuda Netball Association president, is excited for the season resume with the sport in limbo for the past few weeks.

“On behalf of the Bermuda Netball Association, I would like to publicly thank Youth, Sport and Recreation and for their support through this,” she said. ”We would also like to support Whitney as well as CedarBridge Academy for them coming on board and assisting us during this time. It has been adifficult and very trying for all of us.

“In addition, I would hugely like to thank the Bermuda Netball Association executive and council who have put in tireless hours in order to make this happen. It is definitely something that has been in the making for awhile now and we are extremely pleased that we can continue our season.”

MP Jason Wade, the CedarBridge Academy Board chairman, said he and his fellow colleagues were delighted to assist.

“CedarBridge Academy is excited to welcome the BNA to our facility,” he added. “We have the indoor basketball courts that we are going to be converting into netball courts and we have our outdoor tennis courts that we are going to make available for their training sessions in the evening, so we are excited.

“We know that the Bermuda Netball Association is the largest women’s sport on the island and we are excited to welcome them to our facility and we are looking forward to a continued relationship with them here at CedarBridge Academy after the season is over.”

While pleased and grateful to have secured temporary venues, BNA project manager Tahkeesha Welch highlighted an ongoing concern with lighting for training purposes at the CedarBridge Academy’s outdoor facilities.

“We are very excited that we have made an agreement and we will be commencing our games and training sessions, however we are still in need of some lighting,” she said.

“As the chairman of the Board stated, we are able to use these courts for training outside in the evenings, but there is no lighting currently erected so we are looking for lighting.

“We have approximately 22 teams that will need to train and if we are unable to secure lighting in the short term, we will have to possibly rent facilities for them to continue to train, so at this time we are continuing our efforts as we look to start netball again and complete our season.”

In addition to Whitney Institute Middle School and CedarBridge Academy, Evans said Bermuda College will also host games in their gymnasium.

“We also have a partnership with Bermuda College so we have days that were already booked from the beginning of the season where we have matches that take place during the evening,” she added.

“While we are utilising CedarBridge Academy on Saturdays for game play, we have also been able to reach an agreement where there are two days through the week that we can utilise either for training or some make-up games so we are still looking at ending our season towards the end of March.

“We are grateful that most of these venues are indoors so it should not hamper us too much in order for us to be able to get all the matches played in a timely manner.”

Evans hopes the partnership between all parties can be extended beyond this season.

“Right now it’s to the end of the season but we just hope this is something that we can look forward to with a long-term partnership,” she added.

“Obviously the disarray of the netball courts has been happening for a while. It’s not going to be a quick fix and it’s not going to be an easy fix and we understand that.

“We have to start planning for some other long-term solutions and with the assistance of Youth, Sport and Recreation and the Government and our partnerships I think that we can reach something that will be beneficial to all of us.”

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Published January 26, 2023 at 7:50 am (Updated January 26, 2023 at 7:50 am)

Netball season to resume after government brokers deal with schools

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