Construction of a new coliseum in Caguas will take several years

By Marcos Mejías Ortiz

Special to The Star

The Caguas Criollos of the Roberto Clemente Professional Baseball League hope to return in 2021 to their Yldefonso Solá Morales Stadium. The Caguas Criollas professional women’s volleyball team will have to wait several years to return home to Héctor Solá Bezares Coliseum.

Caguas Mayor William Miranda Torres announced on Tuesday an investment of $5 million for restoration work at Solá Morales Stadium; however, Solá Bezares faces a different fate, since the damages inflicted by Hurricane Maria in 2017 make repairing the facility impossible.

“It is considered a total loss,” Miranda Torres told The San Juan Daily Star. “When it was negotiated with them [the Federal Emergency Management Agency, or FEMA] three months ago, they saw it that way.”

FEMA evaluated hundreds of facilities in Caguas during the past three years to determine the aid the municipality would receive.

Miranda Torres and the municipality’s engineer, Luis Herrera, said FEMA has yet to make an official estimate of the damages to the coliseum.

“The matter with FEMA has been very uphill. It has taken three years,” the mayor said. “There is money that is beginning to arrive now.”

Miranda Torres expects to build a new coliseum where the remains of the Solá Bezares are located, but not right away.

“That could begin within the next four years,” he said of the arena built in the 1960s that has been home to the Criollas, the 13-time champions of the Superior Women’s Volleyball League, and the Criollos of National Superior Basketball (BSN), who won that league’s title in 2006.

Herrera said FEMA estimated the damage to the coliseum at less than half of what the municipality projected.

“Our estimate was $11 million. FEMA told us it was $5 million and we did not accept [that estimate],” Herrera said. “Now they acknowledge the damages and we hope that the numbers are close. If not, we will continue with the negotiation.”

This means that the Criollas will surely continue to play their home matches in Roger Mendoza Coliseum, which is just steps away from the old Solá Bezares, and which has been the new home of the Criollas since 2018. Caguas has not had a team in the BSN since 2009. The original franchise played there until 2008. The following year, the Guayama Brujos moved to Caguas for a year. Since then, the BSN has not returned to Caguas.

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