Don’t convert Awka stadium to amusement park, sports enthusiasts beg Soludo
Sports enthusiasts in Awka, the Anambra capital, have called on Gov. Chukwuma Soludo to deliver a complete stadium with facilities for all association games.
The enthusiasts made the call as Soludo commenced work on the second section of the Awka township stadium.
They said the Awka township stadium was the only sporting arena in the entire capital city and should be improved upon rather than being converted to a tourism or leisure site.
Victor Nwangu, a veteran sports administrator, said the football pitch in the Park A section of the stadium, which currently hosts Nigeria Professional Football League, Nationwide League and other national games, was still incomplete.
Nwangu, an ex-Rangers Int’l, said it was improper that over 18 months after the stadium was inaugurated and approved for Nigeria Football Federation matches, floodlights, scoreboard media centre were yet to be installed.
“I want to thank the government of Anambra for the Awka township stadium which has become the epicentre of football activities in the state because it is hosting many national football competitions.
“It is important that all the standards are maintained so that it can host international competitions, these standards, include increasing sitting capacity from the current 1,000 to a minimum 5,000, we should have floodlights and conveniences,” he said.
Nwangu advised that Park A section should be brought up to standard before moving into the B-section as it may result to abandoning the progress made and allowing the installed facilities to decay.
“It is good that the governor is planning to develop the B section but let this A section be completed first because matches will be going on here and the stadium is not just about football.
“I expect that there should be a master plan to build 80 per cent of about 19 association games we have in this stadium and then build them in phases until we have a complete stadium.
“Amusement and leisure parks are not association sports, they are recreational facilities which are provided for in the master plans of cities and communities, stadium is solely for sports,” he said.
Also speaking, Tony Nezianya, a veteran sports journalist, said overflow of the existing grandstand at Awka township stadium during Rangers Int’l matches was an indication that sports was becoming popular among residents.
Nezianya, the current Public Relations Officer of the Nigeria Olympic Committee (NOC), said Soludo should take advantage of the growing spirit of sports in Anambra to build a sports economy.
He said Anambra was a major player in the athletes supply chain in Nigeria and should not be confined to a stadium that served a mono-sports purpose.
“There is a functional stadium in Awka but the pavilion is no longer adequate, there is an immediate need to expand it and install other facilities including those of other sports to make it a stadium.
“Floodlights are very critical now because most events take place at night when people are back from work and are ready to relax with live games, they are also very good for security purposes.
“I do not want to believe that they are planning to build anything other than facilities for competitive sports there, it will not be in the best interest of the masses,” he said.
Nezianya described sports as a multi-million dollar business and money spinner which could lift athletes and their families from penury to affluence.
According to him, “we have to create opportunities for our youths, we to have nurture and export more athletes and the state has a lot to benefit from such investments.
“The government should build a standard track there, we expect a cricket oval, basketball, tennis, volleyball, tennis courts, indoor sports hall and others,” he said.
In the same vein, the Sports Writers Association of Nigeria (SWAN), Anambra chapter, while commending Soludo for resuming work at the Awka stadium, opposed the idea of converting it to an amusement and leisure park.
Anthony Oji, the chairman of SWAN in the state, described the move as an attempt to render the teaming Anambra athletes and the entire sporting community homeless.
He said the stadium was for sports and there was much left to be done to make the Awka stadium a sports arena befitting a state that had rich tradition in sports like Anambra.
“I know we have a listening governor who loves sports, the plan to develop the entire stadium is good, our appeal is that he should defend the sanctity of that stadium as a sporting arena.
“He should build sports infrastructure such that Anambra can host national competitions and festivals, converting that place to leisure parks will amount to banishing sports from the state,” he said.
In a reaction, Christian Aburime, Press Secretary to Soludo, said the governor was not converting the stadium to a leisure park.
Aburime said only the vast undeveloped area within the stadium would be used for the recreational park which was meant to create tourism ambience in Awka.
According to him, the government is trying to build a megacity with a good tourism facilities, so that residents and visitors can have a place to go and relax.
“Governor is not converting the stadium to an amusement park, the stadium remains as it is,” he said.
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