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FEMA funds repair of Puerto Rico sports facilities

Two sports popular among young people — skateboarding and soccer — received a boost from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), following a multimillion-dollar approval of funds to repair facilities dedicated to these sports.

FEMA allocated nearly $6.4 million to repair the Bayamón Soccer Complex I and II and the Edwin Caraballo Soccer Park in Gurabo. It also approved nearly $2 million for the Parque del Niño and Skate Park in Cidra, and the Municipal Skate Park in Rincón.

“Investing in sports facilities such as these has a broad social benefit because, in addition to providing young people with adequate infrastructure to practice and develop in sports, it contributes to family unity, the development of skills and values, and the well-being of communities,” said Federal Disaster Recovery Coordinator José G. Baquero.

Skateboarding has evolved rapidly since its beginnings in the 1950s in California. 

“It used to be a community. It’s always been said that skateboarding is artistic and not a sport. But now that it has become an Olympic sport, it is called a sport,” said Orlando Ramos, president of the Puerto Rico Skateboarding Federation.

Skateboarding professionals competed for the first time in the 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo, Japan. Puerto Rico was represented by Manny Santiago in the Street event and Steven Piñeiro represented the island in the Park event, which is performed on a track with slopes and complicated curves.

In order to support the development of more children and young people in this sport, FEMA obligated more than $1 million to repair the Cidra skateboard park, which faced erosion and landslide issues during Hurricane María. The project includes installing a retaining wall and geotextile membranes to help prevent future erosion and funds for hazard mitigation measures.

The agency also allocated nearly $850,000 to repair Rincón’s municipal skateboard park. 

“Since it is the only indoor skate park, young people prefer it,” said Mirta Carrero, project engineer for the municipality of Rincón. “They have adequate facilities at no cost and everyone participates on equal terms, regardless of whether they are experts or amateurs.”

The repairs include the building’s structure: roof, bleachers, lighting and the air conditioning system, which has already been repaired. 

“What I enjoy the most is that I can practice even if it’s raining and they have a diversity of ramps to do different tricks,” said Manuel A. Rivera, a student from Añasco and a visitor to the Rincón park. “It is important to take care of it so that many young people like me have a safe place to practice, attend events and competitions and develop in the sport.”

Moreover, FEMA allocated nearly $4 million to repair the Bayamón Soccer Complex I and II, located near the Alturas de Flamboyán community. It also allocated more than $2.6 million for improvements to the Edwin Caraballo Soccer Stadium in Parcelas Nuevas, Gurabo.

 Bayamón is one of the most active towns in soccer, said Iván Rivera, president of the Puerto Rican Soccer Federation (FPF). Among its most important parks are the Juan Ramón Loubriel Stadium, where the National Soccer Team has played against renowned European and Latin American clubs, and the Bayamón Soccer Complex I and II.

“The Metropolitan Regional Association League, as well as the Puerto Rico Youth League, both male and female, play in the Bayamón parks, The Eastern Regional Association League games are played in the Gurabo parks,” Rivera said. 

Repairs to the Soccer Complex I in Bayamón have been completed. The second phase at Complex II includes replacing part of the sports equipment — the net system and artificial turf — and improving the sidewalks and photovoltaic systems; this includes lighting, solar panels and batteries.

“Preserving soccer parks is one of the main factors to guarantee the development of soccer in the country. It is not only important to preserve them, but to invest in building new parks for soccer practice and competitions, with the corresponding access for the FPF,” said Rivera.

On the other hand, repairs to the Edwin Caraballo Soccer Stadium in Gurabo include constructing a new building in accordance with current construction standards, installing artificial turf, and repairing the infrastructure and surroundings of the park, including the parking area.

For his part, the executive director of the Puerto Rico Central Office for Recovery, Reconstruction and Resiliency (COR3), Manuel A. Laboy-Rivera, said that “currently, over 950 recreational and sports facilities are being rebuilt in Puerto Rico, with an approximate investment of $356 million in FEMA funds. These projects are developed based on the need expressed by COR3 subrecipients. The investment in these facilities will continue to drive socioeconomic development in the communities.”

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