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FEMA earmarks $18.4M to repair Roberto Clemente Stadium in Carolina

The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) approved an obligation of some $18.4 million for permanent repairs to the Roberto Clemente Walker Stadium, a sports facility managed by the Municipality of Carolina.

Aside from its sociocultural importance, the home of professional baseball’s Carolina Giants team “plays a very important role in Carolina’s economy,” the federal agency stated.

The stadium, named after one of the glories of Puerto Rican baseball and built in 2001, has hosted important events such as two Caribbean Series (2003 and 2007), which generated an economic impact of more than $2 million.

The venue also hosts the Little League Preparatory Tournament (with more than 100 teams) and the town conducts social work with “Mano Amiga Gigante” to receive and distribute donations for disasters. In addition, mass vaccinations and now COVID-19 tests have been carried out at the stadium.

“We recognize that sports are a fundamental tool to provide quality of life to our communities. We are pleased to contribute by allocating funds for the improvement of facilities such as this iconic stadium, in support of the sporting spirit of our people,” said the Federal Disaster Recovery Coordinator for Puerto Rico, José G. Baquero.

“This also contributes to help Puerto Rico host local and international events in different sports disciplines,” he said.

Repairing the stadium represents a great economic impact for local merchants and suppliers, as well as for the municipality, restaurants and surrounding businesses. It also impacts other industries such as transportation, hotels, logistics and event coordination, the head of the agency said.

“Seeing this stadium after the hurricane, all of it flooded, the artificial turf that we had just installed and had not yet used, and seeing the massive damage and destruction it suffered, was a shock of sadness for us,” said Carolina Mayor José Aponte-Dalmau.

“However, thanks to the help of FEMA and the money we have received, we’re already completed more than 90% of the total restoration of this iconic structure,” the municipal official said.

The repair work at the stadium includes the removal and replacement of seats, lighting, fences and safety nets, the scoreboard, the electrical system, the transformer, the clay areas at the baseball field, the stair railings, and the wooden benches.

Of the funds allocated, close to $1.2 million is earmarked for hazard mitigation to prevent future damage, such as installing tempered glass and reinforcing the geotextile pavement, among others.

Roberto Clemente, born in the San Antón neighborhood in Carolina, was the first Latin American player to reach 3,000 hits. He also starred in the 1971 World Series, won 12 Gold Gloves, and in 1973 became the first Latino to be inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame.

Manuel A. Laboy Rivera, executive director of the Central Office of Recovery, Reconstruction and Resiliency (COR3, in Spanish) believes this obligation will “help rescue this significant sports facility and will allow families to enjoy sports in a much safer space. Our commitment is to support the Municipality of Carolina in the process of rebuilding this important sports center.”

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This story was written by our staff based on a press release.

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