Arecibo Maria Garcia heard the same promises over and over again that they would restore the pool where her son Sebastian received therapy to deal with his special condition.

However, the pool, built in 1979, has remained unusable since 2017 when Hurricane Maria damaged many sports facilities under the care of the Department of Recreation and Sports (DRD). Besides the pool, the tennis courts are still covered in weeds and horse manure, and the passive children’s park lies in ruins.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has allocated $3.5 million for repairs. Of that, $2.9 million is earmarked for work needed for the pool. In a follow-up hearing convened by the Senate Committee on Innovation, Telecommunications, Urban Planning and Infrastructure, DRD officials said the design phase was nearing completion to call for tenders.

The park of culture and recreation is in decline. (Carlos Gonzalez)

Garcia listened in silence as Antonio Cabrera, DRD’s assistant secretary of infrastructure, insisted that repairing the pool was a priority project for the state agency. However, she was not convinced.

“I don’t trust anybody anymore,” he said. “They may have the best intentions, promise to get the job done, but nothing. They said it before and we are still waiting“.

Sebastian has had knee surgery to correct some conditions, so water exercises are essential to his rehabilitation. As the pool in Arecibo remains closed, his parents travel from Quebradillas to Barceloneta so he can continue his therapy.

“They pass us by like hot potatoes. It is up to us parents to wait for them to do the work. Years go by, and everything will cost more. I don’t believe them because they know it’s a big and massive project,” Garcia said.

Cabrera promised Garcia that the DRD would speed up the process of starting work.

Weeds have overgrown the tennis courts.
Weeds have overgrown the tennis courts. (Carlos Gonzalez)

We will work to have the pool ready as soon as possible. I say this from the bottom of my heart, I promise“, he said.

Senator Elizabeth Rosa Velez, president of the Commission, claimed that the process under the DRD was slow.

“We have to put ourselves in the shoes of others. There is a complete separation from the needs of communities. There is a light of hope at the end of the tunnel, but you can’t continue with the same excuse because it’s been six years since Hurricane Maria,” Rosa Velez said.

Uncertain future of Rodríguez Olmo

ancient Luis Rodríguez Olmo Stadium It is another sports facility in a rapidly declining area.

The bush has taken over the ground, and the cement stands are covered with moisture. Alternatives with the park are minimal. It was not on DRD’s list of buildings covered by insurance. FEMA also has no obligation to provide the money.

Weeds cover what used to be the field at Luis Rodríguez Olmo Stadium.
Weeds cover what used to be the field at Luis Rodríguez Olmo Stadium. (Carlos Gonzalez)

In 2017, the DRD assessed the physical station and recommended demolition, an option that remains on the table as restoration would require millions of dollars.

All alternatives are considered“, Cabrera noted, without assigning responsibility to the department.

For Senator Rosa Velez, the situation at the Rodríguez Olmo Stadium is difficult.

It would be expensive to fix it, and to demolish it too. We have not received a final answer to this.. We’ll see about the park,” he concluded.