Coronavirus pandemic has forced the contractor to reduce the workforce at Mombasa County Stadium, slowing down construction work at the facility.
A spot check by Nation Sport on Friday revealed that only 10 employees of Sirita Construction Limited, the company working at the facility, were on the ground, perhaps in line with social distancing directives from the Ministry of Health.
Two months ago, the stadium was a beehive of activity, with more than 100 construction workers on site. Earth movers were busy demolishing the old structures, including the centre stand, terraces and the washrooms, while lorries carried away heaps of waste material to the dump site.
When Kenya recorded her first case of Covid-19 disease, the workforce was reduced. Part of the work was moved outdoors in line with social distancing directives.
The Mombasa County government is however adamant that coronavirus pandemic will not delay work on the stadium to a great extent and has projected that the work which was meant to be completed in December this year will now run through to June 2021.
Innocent Mugabe, the Mombasa County Chief Officer for Youth, Gender, Sports and Culture has said that although coronavirus pandemic has slowed down work at the stadium by restricting the size of the workforce, construction will continue in earnest once the situation improves.
Mugabe, who took over from Rajab Babu recently, has said 75 percent of the structural work is currently being done away from the site while work on the foundation continues. He is optimistic the work will be finished inside 14 months.
"The novel coronavirus has dealt a big blow to our plans of completing work by December but after coronavirus crisis is gone, we will come back much stronger, determined to deliver this facility to Mombasa residents by June next year after almost eight years of waiting," he said.
When Nation Sport visited the site on Friday, 10 employees of Sirita Constructions Limited were busy putting heavy steel metal in place, ready to lay foundation stone on key areas inside the stadium.
"Every crisis offers an opportunity. Coronavirus has offered us an opportunity to work on the nitty-gritty of the pitch, which will make it easy for us to put everything together when the whole thing is over," Mugabe said.
Mugabe said Turkish experts who were working on the facility were evacuated due to coronavirus. They will return when the pandemic has been dealt with.
At the site, already fixed steel metals were lying all over waiting to be fixed on the already dug trenches to form the foundation of the stadium while the drainage system was also being done.
Mugabe said the actual geographical position work has been completed paving way for laying of the foundation work which if completed will see the stands and other aspects of the construction work which are being done away from the site to fixed.
During his tenure as Mombasa Chief Officer for Sports, Babu led the Turkish firm in launching work on the stadium on September 17 last year. He said the government was to spend Sh61 million in renovating Mombasa County Stadium, and the work started with levelling off the ground in readiness for the laying of artificial running track in the stadium, and planting of natural grass on the playing surface.
But Babu said his team stopped the work upon realising the contractor was planting Kikuyu grass on the pitch instead of Arabica grass that had been agreed on.
"Out of Sh61 million which was meant for civil work, installation of an artificial running track and planting grass on the pitch, we only paid the contractor Sh39 million for the work he had done, meaning we still have a balance of Sh22 million which is value for money for the remaining work," Babu said at the time.
The decision, he says, prompted them to bring down the entire stadium and erect a brand new facility at a cost of Sh1.7 billion.
The new contractors, he said, had finished geotechnical survey on the facility, paving the way for work to start at the facility which will be expanded to capacity of 12,500 people.
The new-look stadium will have four changing rooms, separate changing rooms for male and female referees, multi-purpose arena for basketball, netball, futsal and volleyball, as well as a standard swimming pool. It will also have a restaurant for 790 people.
The stadium will also have a fully furnished media centre.
In 2013, the central government set aside Sh29 million for renovating the stadium, but nothing much was done, Ababu Namwamba who was Sports Minister at the time to summarily sack the contractor.
Whether Mombasa residents will see a brand new world-class stadium built by June 2021 remains to be seen.
The land on which Mombasa Stadium stands was donated to the Aga Khan Community by Shikelly family in 1949 for their activities, in the process benefiting Coast residents.
Aga Khan Community put up a 10,000-seater multi-purpose facility called the Aga Khan Community Stadium, which was used for close to five years before being leased out to the Council of Mombasa in 1955.
The facility was thereafter renamed Mombasa Municipal Stadium, with a mutual understanding that the lease would last 99 years and the council would maintain the facility on behalf of the community.
But since the lease was granted, little was done to improve the stadium to attract more clients and to generate revenue for the council to enable it maintain the facility.
The Mombasa County Stadium was closed for renovation in 2013 but was neglected and became a breeding ground for dangerous reptiles which took advantage of the overgrown vegetation on the pitch, leaving Mombasa with no functioning stadium worth the name.
The drainage system at the stadium collapsed long ago. Outside the stadium were illegal structures housing, among others, food kiosks, sand harvesting dealers, and carpenters.