Blakes Estate Stadium, Montserrat: The Caribbean’s Most Unlikely Sports Mecca
Blakes Estate Stadium in Montserrat got my mind racing back to my childhood sports fandom when we visited in September 2019.
Very much unlike the other half of Team Uncommon Caribbean, I am a huge sports fan. Have been since my earliest days. American football, baseball, hockey, basketball, soccer – I’ve long loved and consumed them all.
Some of my earliest sports-viewing memories are of college football games. Great players (Marcus Allen, Bo Jackson, Michael Irvin) and legendary games predominate my memories. (I’m still salty about that Doug Flutie Hail Mary.) Also big in my cache of sports memories: college football stadiums.
Seating For Everyone…And Then Some
Little boy me absolutely marveled at the gargantuan size of stadiums like the Rose Bowl and Michigan Stadium, aka: The Big House. Full seating capacity at these and other major college football stadiums exceed 100,000 people. This always got my imagination working relative to my small island community. I remember thinking…
Every single resident of my home island of Saint Croix could attend a game at The Big House. What’s more, they could also invite a friend to come along…and the game would still not be a sellout!
Memories of these childhood thoughts filled my mind as we walked out onto the pitch and marveled at the sunset making a watercolor masterpiece of the skies behind the Blakes Estate Stadium grandstand. To me, you see, this humble sports complex is just as much a marvel as those huge college football stadiums.
Size Isn’t Everything
The marvel here, though, isn’t rooted in size or grandeur, of course. Blakes Estate Stadium, which is actually officially known as MFA Inc. Complex, seats just 1,000.
The more incredible aspect of this particular stadium, at least to many, is that it even exists at all. Its tidy pitch and scenic surrounds fly in the face of popular notions as to the demise of Montserrat.
Yes, eruptions from the Soufriere Hills Volcano in Montserrat’s southern region decimated the former capital, Plymouth. They also rendered a good swath of that southern region off-limits, a condition that persists to this day.
Here at Blakes Estate Stadium in northern Montserrat, though, the vibrant resiliency of the island and its people shines as brightly as ever.
Shining Symbol of Montserrat’s Enduring Strength
Completed in 2002 with funds provided by FIFA, Blakes Estate is home to several tenants. Montserrat Championship League teams use the facility for their games, as does the Montserrat National Team.
Yes, Montserrat is still vibrant enough to field its own national soccer team; more evidence as to the over-exaggeration of the island’s demise. In fact, said soccer team remained famously unbeaten at their home stadium throughout the first 16 years of its existence!
Somewhat in line with my childhood dreams, just about every resident of Montserrat could’ve witnessed a lot of that amazing win streak.
The island’s population stands around just under 5,000 residents, according to the most recent census (2020). In 2002, when Blakes Estate Stadium was completed, total Montserrat residents numbered 4,425 – the lowest population in the island’s modern history.
With a quarter of the island’s residents in the stands, and no doubt a good deal more lining the fence outside, the earliest soccer matches here must have served as a great foundation for the development of today’s Montserrat.
You can certainly see and feel the island’s ascent from the ashes of its past here, the new and incredible-as-ever Montserrat extending all around you.