As the main stadium in Nairobi in the 1960s and 1970s, Nairobi City Stadium not only hosted high octane football matches, but was also the spiritual home of Kenya’s football in the golden years. That is no longer the case today.
The stadium has become an eyesore to Eastlanders and exposes the soft underbelly that is poor leadership and horrible state of sports facilities in the country.
The stadium which was first named African Stadium, then renamed Donholm Road Stadium, later Jogoo Road Stadium, before acquiring its current name, has not changed much.
The only notable change it experienced was in 2008, when it was picked as one of the 52 facilities in Africa to benefit from Fifa’s ‘Win With Africa in Africa’ initiative that sought to lay artificial turfs on each of the stadiums in Africa ahead of the 2010 World Cup finals that were held in South Africa.
Through this initiative, the facility had an artificial turf laid on it, becoming the first ever stadium in Kenya to have such. However, what was thought would lay a foundation for its improvement in the succeeding years just remained that, a dream.
As part of the agreement with Fifa, the Nairobi City Council — the predecessor of Nairobi City County - was supposed to renovate the terraces, changing rooms, washing rooms, lighting as well as build ample parking facilities.
The delay in implementing this project irked Fifa with its development officer in charge of the Eastern Africa region Ashford Mamelodi lamenting in his previous visit of the facility.
“We have finalised what we had promised to do. Sadly, some of the things like improved dressing rooms and increased seating capacity have not been done. The council ought to do these things, otherwise the whole project will look like a waste,” Mamelodi told our sister paper The Standard in a past interview shortly after the completion of laying of the turf which was to pave way for renovations.
Mamelodi might have made the remarks in jest back then, but many years later, his words have come to haunt football lovers as the facility is banned from hosting Kenyan Premier League (KPL) matches owing to the poor state of the turf which exposes players to the danger of picking injuries.
As things stand, the stadium’s main stand is leaking and the toilets are choking with foul smell. In a nutshell, everything that is City Stadium is horribly wrong.
While launching the Nairobi Governor’s Cup at the same venue last December, Nairobi Governor Dr Evans Kidero promised that renovation works would begin in February, but two months later, work is yet to begin on site prompting the question: What went wrong?
Anne Lockidor, the county executive in charge of Education, ICT, Youth and Sports, said: “We were undertaking this project in partnership with SportPesa but so far, they have not come through. The designs and proper allocations were to come from them. Remember they were shouldering the burden of the cost with by topping up,” she said of the Sh400 million project, adding that, “The designs are almost complete and I’m sure work will begin soon.”
Asked why the county government has never undertaken the rehabilitation exercise yet the facility has been generating revenue running into millions of shillings, she said: “The county government has only been in existence for four years. We cannot be held to account for the failures of the Nairobi City Council. We have just been here for a short time and you can see what we are already doing. You also need to understand that as much as the top-up budget was factored in the budget, there is a cash flow problem.”
With the facility banned by the KPL from hosting its matches, it’s surely missing out on millions but questions abound as to where the Nairobi City Council channeled the millions it realised from the stadium.
The stadium is a rewarding souce of revenue for City Hall. For instance, when hosting KPL matches, clubs like Gor Mahia pay Sh 70,000 to play their home matches at the venue, not to mention the Sh 5,000 per-hour fee charged on securing the venue for training purposes.