St John’s Field redevelopment work to begin next month
Work will begin on March 1 to upgrade St John’s Field, home of Western Stars Sports Club, in a joint venture involving next-door neighbour Gorham’s.
The Bermuda Government, which owns St John’s Field, announced at a press conference yesterday with officials from both Gorham’s and Western Stars that a strip of land bordering the field and Gorham’s yard will be used to improve access to the store.
Lieutenant-Colonel David Burch, the Minister of Public Works, and David Burt, the Premier, attended the press conference when the redevelopment plans of the club were announced.
The plans include renovation of the clubhouse and upgrading of the playing field which has been prone to flooding for decades.
Burch praised the co-operation of building supplier and hardware store Gorham’s and Western Stars in the project which will take about two years.
“Western Stars Sports Club has been a permanent part of the Pembroke community for a number of years, Gorham’s, too, has been a part of this community for more than 80 years,” Burch told the gathering.
“They share adjoining properties so it makes sense for them to be good neighbours to each other and I think it is fair to say they are.
“Western Stars have occupied this site since the early 1970s and have faced several challenges during that time.
“For many years St John’s Field has been plagued with uneven grounds leading to frequent flooding.
“As a result the club has experienced occasions when the field has been unusable for training, community events or recreational activities.
“The clubhouse, also erected in the 1970s, is in dire need of refurbishment to assist the club in catering to its ever-expanding community programmes. Those include, senior, junior and pee wee football and cricket programmes for both boys and girls.”
Burch added: ”In fact, the former Financial Secretary, the late Anthony Manders, was one of the many outstanding athletes coming out of this club.
“With that background it was an easy decision for me to make when Gorham’s first wrote in December 2018 to propose an arrangement that would benefit both their business and Western Stars.
“Simply stated, Gorham’s want access to an unused densely overgrown strip of government-owned land for a new roadway to connect the front and back areas of the property. In exchange they will provide significant support and upgrades to the field and club operations.”
Burch is excited about the work that will be undertaken over the next two years to improve the facility.
“Much work has occurred since that first announcement here on October 30, 2019 and we are here today to conduct the ceremonial ground-breaking,” he stated.
“This is the start of field work as discussions are continuing about the plans for the building. Mobilisation will start today with the aim of starting construction on March 1.
“Construction will take approximately nine months, after which the grass seeding of the field will follow.
“It is anticipated that it will take roughly a year for the grass to grow sufficiently for use. In total, therefore, we looking about two years from start to finish.
“To say that we are delighted with this arrangement would be an understatement. I’d like to thank Gorham’s for their support of this initiative and Western Stars for their willingness to work with Gorham’s to make these improvements to the club premises.”
Devarr Boyles, president of Western Stars, sees tremendous benefits to the club and the Pembroke community from this partnership with Gorham’s.
“Western Stars is extremely grateful for the partnership between the Bermuda Government and Gorham’s,” he said. “Thanks to the Premier and Minister Burch for believing in the project with your actions.
“The new playing surface will be a wonderful addition to the footprint of the community of Pembroke West.
“The club is in its 100th year, so this is a special milestone for us.”The Premier, whose Pembroke West Central constituency is adjacent to the club, admits the project is close to his heart.
“As a club member here at Western Stars, along with MP Michael Weeks, I am proud and excited to celebrate this occasion and this important mutually beneficial partnership between neighbours,” he said.
“I also look forward to seeing the benefits that Western Stars Sports Club and the community will reap from these upgrades and the invaluable support being given. I wish to say well done to everyone involved.”
Andrew Mackay, chief executive of Gorham’s, said he was delighted with the announcement that the upgrades to St John’s Field will become a reality.
“First, I would like to thank the Government of Bermuda for believing in this vision that we’ve had for a few years now in helping Dandy Town/Western Stars to create a pitch that is going to be far superior than what they’ve had,” Mackay said.
“We’re looking forward to finally getting this initiative off the ground and we’re looking forward to leading as an example of what we can do when we see a vision that we both believe in and work forward to.”
“It’s very exciting and I cannot wait to get the ball rolling and the development going.”
Roderick Ferguson, chairman of Gorham’s, said he has long come across footballs in the Gorham’s yard, courtesy of their neighbours.
“For the past 28 years I would come to Gorham’s and find stray soccer balls on the property which I would just kick over the fence and hope they found them,” he said.
“When this thing is all completed I would like to be the person to kick the first soccer ball on the field.
“I’m overjoyed that we’ve partnered with Dandy Town to get this mission started.”