Between the 12th Festival of the Pacific Arts destroying the Paseo Baseball Stadium field, Typhoons Dolphin and Mangkhut damaging the lights, and the coronavirus pandemic putting a halt to nearly all sporting events, the past four years have been trying times for Guam’s sluggers.
In 2015, Typhoon Dolphin hit and damaged Paseo’s stadium lights. The following year, FestPac events held on the baseball diamond rendered it unplayable for many months. In 2018, Typhoon Mangkhut tore through the island and destroyed more of the arena's operable lights.
And although the baseball field is overgrown and the island remains in Pandemic Condition of Readiness 1, as brought on by a government-mandated lockdown, newly appointed Department of Parks and Recreation Director Roque Alcantara is busy making sure the field will be playable once restrictions are lifted.
At a reported cost of $84,000, Triple K Construction is currently replacing the baseball stadium’s fixtures, lights and other related electrical hardware.
“It’s in progress right now,” Alcantara said.
"Hopefully, within the two weeks, we’ll be done," he added.
“They’re replacing all the light fixtures and replacing all the lightbulbs,” he said. There are about 66 lightbulbs that need to be replaced. There are 54 fixtures that are really bad, they are all corroded and all of that. We have to change all of those.”
Alcantara said that before the contract is signed off as complete, the entire system will be inspected and tested.
“There are some areas there that are dark, said Alcantara, referring to large sections of the field that receive very little illumination because of inadequate and misdirected lighting, citing one reason for repairing the facility. “Before we finalize this contract, we’re going to have a night-vision (test) where we’re going to set the lights where they are supposed to be.”
In years past, insufficient lighting prompted players to lodge complaints to Alcantara, who is also the commissioner of the Guam Major League.
The complaint from the players is, “‘it’s so dark out there,’” Alcantara recalled.
Guam greatness that few people saw
Apart from illuminating a dark playing field, the new lights may lead to additional revenue for DPR, and the players not feeling the heat.
“Nobody wants to play during the daytime because it’s so hot,” Alcantara said. “Once we get the lights working, I’m pretty sure we’re going to have a lot of revenue because a lot of teams will be participating in whatever event is going to happen there.”
In January 2019, in two events, Guam showed the region it was a baseball powerhouse when a group of elite teenage athletes won the 15U Oceania Qualifier tournament, and Guam’s Men’s National Baseball Team claimed gold at the 3rd annual Micronesian Baseball Classic.
By winning the U15 tournament, Team Guam earned its place in the World Baseball Softball Confederation U15 Baseball World Cup.
The men, after their victory run, climbed to No. 36 in the World Baseball and Softball Confederation world rankings.
Just a decade ago, these wins may not have happened.
“The players that we have, in Guam, are almost the same caliber of players as the ones in the other countries or in the U.S.," Alcantara said. "I can attest to that because I take the players for regional competition and we’re always up there.
"Before, maybe, 10 years back, other countries didn’t feel that we were competitive. Now, they look forward to our participation," he added.
While the two tournaments helped put Guam baseball on the map, because all games had to be played during the day due to a broken lighting system, the mid-week, morning and afternoon games were relatively unattended.
"They were both affected … because there were no lights, they had to play during the daytime,” Alcantara said.
There was hardly any revenue at all because it was all during the day, he added.
Guam sports get a face-lift
Alcantara, who has occupied the director’s chair for just over 50 days, sees the position at DPR as an opportunity to help revitalize the island. Alcantara, overseeing several construction projects, will help update DPR’s assets as it crawls out from under PCOR1.
“There are a lot of renovations that are going on right now, that’s really why I am here,” Alcantara said. “The tennis court in Agana is being renovated right now.
"The fences are all done. The resurfacing, and all that, we’re just waiting for the contractor to start. I’m trying to also get some funding for the restrooms there.”
In the meantime, the restrooms at the swimming pool will be available, but it’s kind of far, he said.
“Once I get funding, I’ll address the restrooms,” he added.
A sinking situation
But with no solution to the community’s swimming pool woes, the Hagåtña pool sinking, the Dededo pool in need of repair, and Southern High School’s Olympic-size disaster made inoperable immediately after it came online in 1999 for the South Pacific Games, the island’s water warriors are left without a solution.
During a Sept. 9 oversight hearing, Joann Camacho, the deputy director for GEDA, who is also a member of the government’s new pool task force, said that she may have found a funding source and the task force's findings will soon be reported to Gov. Lou Leon Guerrero.
Alcantara, who confirmed that a decision is close to being made for a new pool, said that Leon Guerrero may announce the plans as soon as later this week.
“Mr. Alcantara has indicated that building a new Olympic-size pool next to the Dededo pool is probably the best and most cost-effective option,” said Clayton Duvall, a pool expert with more than 40 years experience. “I agree.”
If you are going to spend the money, start new in a location that is not in a swamp, said Duvall, who assessed the Hagåtña pool and made his recommendation to Camacho.
Camacho told The Guam Daily Post that Masoud Teimoury, the chief planner at the Department of Public Works, was also on hand for the assessment.
"The only practical solution to the 50-year-old Hagåtña pool - built on a swamp - is to fill it with dirt and make a playground out of the area,” Duvall said.
Spending one more penny to try and rehabilitate the pool is “a fool's errand,” he added.
Alcantara said the Hagåtña pool will be filled with dirt and converted into either a beach volleyball facility or a skatepark.
“That will probably be the best thing that happens there,” he said.
“I think this would be a great idea, especially now with the addition of the high school beach volleyball leagues.” said Chris Shepherd, St. John’s School Knights indoor and beach volleyball coach.
"I’m here to help the sports community," Alcantara said.
Amid the pandemic, besides juggling multiple projects, Alcantara will also have to report to Sen. Kelly Marsh, chairperson of the Committee on Heritage and the Arts, Parks, Guam Products, Hagåtña Revitalization, Self-Determination, and Regional Affairs.
In the Sept. 9 virtual meeting, Marsh asked Alcantara to contact the attorney general's office and look into recouping money from Canton Construction, the contractor that won a two-year covenant to maintain the Hagåtña and Dededo pools.
In February 2020, GovGuam terminated the contract but not before it had paid the underperforming contractor $500,000 of the $660,000 deal.
"The past leadership was very disappointing and I’m seeing the outcome of it. I inherited a mess," Alcantara said.