After 33 years, Oyo upgrades Lekan Salami Stadium using alternate project funding
After 18 months of renovation work, the Oyo State Government has completed an upgrade of the Lekan Salami Stadium, with cutting-edge structures and environment-friendly technologies.
The Lekan Salami complex built on 130,000 square metres of land was formerly occupied by Ibadan racecourse. The Race Course had gone moribund while the space became home to illegal activities and structures.
The administration of General David Jembewon (retired) is credited with the original idea of turning the Race Course into a sports complex. While the initial design was for a sport and recreational complex, provision was later made for shops as a way of revenue generation.
The stadium was completed during the administration of late Brigadier-General Adetunji Olurin, while the main-bowl of the stadium was unveiled on May 1988 by late former military vice president of Nigeria, Admiral Augustus Aikhoumu.
At inception, facilities in the complex include, football field, tennis courts, squash, indoor sports hall, amphitheater, basketball courts, volleyball courts, swimming pool (uncompleted) and handball courts.
In 1998, the then military governor of Oyo state, Col. Hammed Usman (rtd), renamed it Lekan Salami stadium in honour of an Ibadan High Chief, late Chief Lekan Salami, for his strong support for the Shooting Stars and sports development in Oyo State.
The stadium has hosted many international and continental soccer championships including the Nigeria versus Georgia match, Shooting stars F. C, Ibadan versus Bizerte F. C of Tunisia; Shooting Stars football club versus Orlando FC of South Africa and several memorable Premier, national league and FA cup championships.
For many years, facilities in the stadium took downward trend as a result of neglect by successive administration.
HOWEVER, under the leadership of Governor Seyi Makinde, a grass to grace story of the stadium unfolded.
The Governor kick-started the remodeling to FIFA standards in August 2020. Within a year of the inauguration of the contract, the contractor, Messrs. Peculiar Ultimate Concerns Ltd delivered the main bowl of the stadium with world-class facilities.
The main bowl of the stadium is fitted with FlFA recommended specified standard natural grass, four dressing rooms equipped with modern showers, heaters and players lockers, adjustable flood lights, five-mile radius CCTV, most modern electronic score board and video assistant referee (VAR).
Essentially, all the stands are now fully covered besides a VIP lounge equipped with grand style VIP seating arrangement with numbers. The stadium boosts of two new additional specialised gymnasiums for combative sports and gymnastics and 1,200 capacity tennis court.
The remodeled stadium is expected to optimise sporting performance of Oyo State in national sports festivals in line with Governor Makinde’s vision to shoot the state to the top of the table in future national sports festivals.
The project was financed under a financial model known as Alternate Project Funding Approach (APFA). The contractor was mandate to remodel the edifice, fund the project while the state government will repay over 29 months.
Other stadia been renovated include, the Olubadan stadium, pitches in Ikolaba high school, Bishop Phillips Academy, Army Day Secondary School and Agugu High School in Ibadan. The Durbar Stadium, Oyo, Soun Stadium, Ogbomoso, Saki Stadium in Saki, lgboora and Iseyin Stadium has also witnessed positive turnaround by the government.
Addressing the media during a facility tour of the newly rebuilt stadium, the Project Manager, Peculiar Ultimate Concerns Limited, Mr. Femi James said: “The Lekan Salami Sports Complex now has new facilities such as a standard grass pitch, a departure from the artificial turf of the past.”
According to him, “The new tartan track around the pitch is the best obtainable in the market. Apart from beautifying the stadium, the new track also creates conducive training and competition arena for athletes, just as it serves as a kind of foyer before the pitch.”
Since the stadium was constructed, James said: “this is the first time the stadium will have a training pitch, which would also serve as a kind of community centre for Ibadan people desirous of a befitting playing field.”
James described the training pitch as meeting requirements by the world football governing body for international football engagements.
Another innovation to the sports complex is the introduction of seats. Football fans would have comfortable seats in the standard of a modern arena. The installation of the seats also raised the seating capacity of the stadium to 10,000 from its original 8,000.
Aside from these physical innovations, there are also electronic scoreboards, Video Assistant Referee (VAR) facilities and pitch-side monitors. The main bowl of the edifice has also been equipped with automated floodlights and sundry lighting for the security of life and property within the vicinity such that activities going on five miles away from the arena could be successfully monitored.
Speaking on the electric gadgets installed in the stadium for live transmission of matches, the Head of Electricity and Electronics, Mr. Benjamin Tobrise, said this would be achieved with ease as activities in four different stadia could be monitored live at the Lekan Salami Complex. In addition to all of these, the stadium can now boast of four new separate dressing rooms, each with its wet areas.
There are also match officials’ rooms that ensure comfort of officials. It comes with innovative separation of rooms for referees, match commissioners and referee assessors, each with their up-to-date conveniences.
There is also the mixed zone, also a new area for teams and officials usual line up minutes before the kick-off of matches. Also introduced is a youth centre/ ball boys rooms. The studio is another innovation that stands the new-look Lekan Salami Sports Complex out. The studio, according to James, is currently the best in the country “it is one of the major requirements by FIFA,” boasted James.
He said the state-of-the-art studio contains automated gadgets, which would serve as the one-stop control for the floodlights; the new electronic scoreboards and CCTV that would show what is happening at the stands and activities at five kilometres radius of the stadium. The new stadium now comes with a clinic, hospitality suites for VIPs and powerhouse.
The passageway, which was a waste area has been designed to serve as a Hall of Fame, where legends of the round leather game would be honoured and their memory preserved. There is also a new centre court for tennis with sitting and wet areas, while the indoor sports hall has been renovated.
A new Olympic size swimming pool has been added to the complex with a new multi-purpose hall called Composite Hall for boxing, wrestling, kickboxing, weightlifting and powerlifting.
Chairman of the Oyo State Sports Council, Mr. Gbenga Adewusi and the governor’s aide on sports, Mr. Gboyega Makinde in their views, foresee a bright future for sports in Oyo State and massive steps that will translate to youth development.
MEANWHILE, the 130,000 square meters land upon which the edifice sits has capacity to stimulate tourism in Mokola and environs. The complex is already creating strong commercial impacts in the entire Ibadan even before full take-off.
The Special Adviser to the Governor on Culture and Tourism, Ademola Ige disclosed this while on a tour of the facilities alongside the vice-chairman, Oyo State Board of Tourism, Alhaji Abass Oloko and some members of the Nigerian Tourism Development Corporation (NTDC), led by the State Director, Mr. Dotun Opatola, Erelu Funmi Rotiba of the National Association of Nigerian Travel Agencies (Western zone), as well as the Federation of Tourism Association of Nigeria, among others.
Ige said sport tourism would take over from other sources of revenue generation in the State, citing the examples of notable cities around the world with standard stadia, through which they get funds for other public projects.
Get the latest news delivered straight to your inbox every day of the week. Stay informed with the Guardian’s leading coverage of Nigerian and world news, business, technology and sports.