21 November 2012

Uganda: At 100, How Safe Is Nakivubo Stadium?

How safe is Nakivubo War II Memorial stadium? As the sports facility almost makes a century, this is one of those questions that keep arising.

A tour of Nakivubo reveals that much as the stadium could have served for several more years, there are all indications that activities around it are fast making it a death trap.

Much as Sports State Minister Charles Bakkabulindi has over the past five years kept promising that Nakivubo would be re-developed, nothing concrete has taken place in that direction.

In May, the stadium's management issued a three month ultimatum to Park Yard market vendors to vacate the facility's land. This was supposed to be the initial step to pave way for the proposed master plan to redevelop the stadium.

But four months since the deadline elapsed, no measures have been taken. Instead, more vendors seem to be settling on the stadium's land and the management collects money from them.

Stands at risk:

Almost every day that passes a new lock-up shop is set up on the stadium's wall along Kafumbe Mukasa road. That the same wall serves as the foundation for some of the terraces has increased risks of the terraces collapsing during publi events.

More questions have also been raised as a result of the stadium being one of the CECAFA Tusker Cup venues. The tournament kicks-off on Saturday.

Business here is mainly general merchandise. Restaurant and toilet business is also booming around the stadium that was built in 1921.

Car and Bus Park:

Large chunks of the stadium's land have been turned into parks for vehicles. One of the most abused areas is the netball court and the area behind the Kirussia stand. During the day almost a hundred cars are parked here.

In 2009 the area behind Kirussia was only saved from being converted into a bus terminal by a public outcry.

However this did not help as today, a huge area of the stadium's parking yard has been turned into a bus terminal and a market.

Evacuation disaster:

World soccer governing body FIFA calls for safety measures controlling the amount of activities around major venues. This is supposed to pave way for easy evacuation in case of emergencies.

Two fires have over the past three years gutted the market next to the stadium wall. Soccer fans could probably count themselves lucky for the fires not erupting during a match.

Besides the numerous businesses that surround the facility, there are also storied buildings bordering the stadium's walls. This has rendered payment of gate fees almost irrelevant given that action in the stadium can be followed from these buildings.

Board says all is OK:

Nakivubo board chairman Gofrey Kisekka scoffs at those who say the stadium is being misused through non-sporting activities. "True, the core activity for the stadium is sports but revenues from these activities can no longer maintain the facilities".

Reading financial statements of the first quarter of 2012, Kisekka in May explained that out of the sh70m collected, football brought only sh900,000.

Rent from bus companies, shops and parking fees brought in sh31m while stadium hire brought sh32m and toilets sh6m.

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