July 17, 2003 – When senators approved a $235 million bond issue on July 15 to keep the government afloat, they included $5 million for a multipurpose center on St. John among the projects slated for funding on other islands.
"There is no place in St. John for indoor functions," Sen. Almando "Rocky" Liburd said.
He said he included the money in the $235 million bond despite the territory's financial woes because he doesn't think there will be any more bonds issued for some time to come.
St. John Administrator Julien Harley thinks it's only fair that St. John get some share of the bond pie since other projects will also be funded. "I noticed that everyone was getting money except St. John," he said.
Liburd said that the enclosed building could be used for events like the July 4 Celebration Queen Show. This year the Princess Show, held at the outdoors Winston Wells Ballfield, had to be postponed because of rain.
Liburd said he views the building as a money-maker that could be rented to private groups for events like sports tournaments and concerts. He wants the building to hold up to 1,500 people to allow for future growth.
Liburd anticipated it would be built on the stretch of land behind the Motor Vehicle Bureau and across from the rear entrance to St. Ursula's Church. He said the building will have dormitories so that it could house sports players who come to St. John for tournaments.
Harley said since the building will have dormitories, it could also shelter people when a disaster like a hurricane strikes.
Liburd said the project could be completed for about $3.5 million.
"My hope is to start next year," he said.
Liburd said the Motor Vehicle Bureau will not have to move, but that the area will be upgraded to allow for parking.
St. John resident Steve Black was surprised to learn that the multipurpose center discussed some years ago had grown from a place for youths to congregate to a $5 million building suitable for a major sports events.
He said that plans for such a building should not start until the community has input. Black said that St. John needs a master plan to make sure that projects such as this one are necessary.
He said the $5 million in the bond could better go to a new school. Plans to exchange V.I. National Park land at Catherineberg for land owned by the local government have been discussed.
Black suggested that the Julius E. Sprauve School, which sits in noisy and congested Cruz Bay, could be moved to the Catherineberg location. The top floor of the Sprauve School building could be used for government offices and the lower floor rehabilitated to serve as a multipurpose center. Additionally, the vendors plaza slated to go up on the public parking area across from the Creek and additional parking could occupy the ball field.
"Moving the school is a must. It's more important than the multipurpose center," Black said.

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