A multipurpose hall and gymnastics pavilion, tacked on last year to a facilities upgrade at the Marsa Sports Complex, were inaugurated on Friday, leapfrogging the completion of an indoor squash and weightlifting centre announced in 2019, meant to be finished by last year.
The upgrades to the Marsa Sports Complex saw the €3 million budget of the initially planned squash and weightlifting centre balloon to €9 million, with the newly announced gymnastics pavilion costing €5.5 million alone.
The squash and weightlifting centre announced almost five years ago, was part of a series of sports infrastructure projects meant to be completed in time for the Games for the Small States of Europe, hosted by Malta in June 2023.
The Marsa Sports Complex upgrades were announced alongside plans for a €3 million tennis complex in Pembroke, which remains incomplete despite its planned use ahead of last year’s games.
The originally planned upgrades to the Marsa Sports Complex included a weightlifting hall, six singles squash courts, two doubles squash courts, an administration block, along with a restaurant and parking spaces, all within a three-storey complex meant to cost €3 million.
In June 2020, the facilities were re-announced as part of a larger €9 million project involving the restoration of the nearby ‘1903’ building. In March 2023, the upgrades to the complex were expanded again to include the construction of a gymnastics pavilion.
While the tacked-on additions to the upgrade plans for the Marsa complex have been completed, the initially planned and still incomplete squash and weightlifting centre received no mention in a government press release marking the inauguration of the gymnastics pavilion on Friday.
Prime Minister Robert Abela, Sports Minister Clifton Grima and SportMalta CEO Mark Cutajar avoided mentioning any delays surrounding the sports infrastructure projects.
The government press release called the event an “inauguration of the third phase of a project that will lead to a sports hub,” avoiding further details or projected timelines.
One of many delayed projects
Last May, The Shift reported on a series of failed projects forming part of a €37.7 million investment by SportMalta.
Many of the facilities were initially meant to be completed by 2021, leaving ample time for their use in the training for the small nations’ games, but, not one of them met the deadline.
These included a still-incomplete €16 million pool in Victoria, Gozo, the €3 million tennis complex in Pembroke, the €9 million upgrade package for the Marsa Sports Complex, and the late and over-budget €14 million Cottonera Sports Complex.
SportMalta financials hidden from scrutiny
Grima has attempted to shift the goalposts following the unexpected delays and ballooning budgets surrounding the projects. Ahead of the GSSE’s last May, he claimed the projects’ scope was broader than their use for the games, claiming they were part of an even larger €60 million investment package in response to a parliamentary question by Nationalist Party MP Graziella Galea.
Sport Malta has refused to table its audited financial accounts since 2020, meaning that the actual cost for the projects listed under this package, which included the grossly mismanaged Ta’ Kandja Shooting Range, among several other projects, remain hidden from public scrutiny.
Questions sent to Sports Minister Clifton Grima and Sport Malta CEO Mark Cutajar remain unanswered at the time of publication.