After close to two decades of abandonment and neglect, the Sunday Dare-led Ministry of Youth and Sports Development, through its Adopt-A-Pitch initiative, brought smiles on the faces of the country’s teeming sports-lovers by securing a Public-Private Partnership funding for the renovation of the football pitch, athletics track and electronic scoreboards of the main bowl of the stadium in 2020. Checks by our correspondent showed that work have since commenced and are ongoing, with the rehabilitation of the pitch, tartan tracks and replacement of the electronic scoreboard adopted by billionaire businessman Sir Kessington Adebutu, Chairman, Premier Lotto Limited.
Last December, Dare stated that the facility would be reopened in May 2021, but contractors told press men that the delay in the delivery of the project was largely due to the late arrival of materials as a result of COVID-19.
The reopening of the stadium was also scheduled for August, but has been shifted due to the slow pace of work.
When our correspondent visited the stadium on Sunday, the sports arena wore its old decaying look, with illegal structures, which were demolished in September 2020.
But work on the pitch had reached an advanced stage as the re-grassed pitched looked lush green and well maintained, but the tartan tracks were yet to be fixed, with the tracks’ materials, which arrived earlier this year, left close to the entrance to the main bowl.
A top ministry official, who spoke with press men on condition of anonymity, said “the ongoing rehabilitation works at the main bowl of the stadium have been faced with series of challenges that have stretched the period of construction and delayed completion of works.”
He added, “Some of these challenges include the foreign exchange rate of the Dollar to Naira, which affected and delayed the procurement of the electronic scoreboard, as well as the synthetic athletic tracks materials.
“Furthermore, security has been a challenge owing to the vandalisation of power cables which supply power to the stadium.
“To mitigate against these security challenges, the FMYSD has had to award the contract for external solar lightings for the stadium complex. This contract has been fully executed and has greatly improved the security situation at the stadium.
“All in all, the rehabilitation works at the mainbowl of the stadium are steadily moving towards successful completion.
Our correspondent learnt that works carried out on the football pitch were focused on FIFA standards.
Planting of the Hybrid Bermuda grass has been completed, with nurturing ongoing. The second batch of organic boom spraying to revitalise the growing grass, will commence this week, our source said.
It was further learnt that the combination of the on-pitch underground drainage system and the soil mix for the football pitch will prevent soil leaching as well help the pitch during a downpour.
The installation of the scoreboard is currently ongoing as the foreign installers from the Original Equipment Manufacturers, who were initially delayed by COVID-19 restrictions, are now on site.
On the athletics tracks, our ministry said, “when the final compacting of the football pitch was completed, the re-ashpalting of the base of the athletic tracks would commence and the laying of the synthetic tracks would be done immediately afterwards.
“It is instructive to note that the materials for the synthetic athletics track have been supplied as well and are safely locked in stores at the National Stadium.”
One of the site contractors, who also spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorised to speak on the issue, gave our correspondent an update on the renovation, adding that Italians were currently fixing the scoreboard, which he said had been changed from analog to digital.
He said, “There was never a time when work was halted at the stadium because we do a weekly report to the ministry on the progress of the project.
“We finished planting the grass in June and what we’ve been doing is carrying out maintenance job so as to exterminate the weeds. We are already fixing the scoreboard and if you’re driving past the stadium, you’ll see the scaffold.
“The previous scoreboard was analog and now we are installing a digital one and we have to trim it to meet the new specifications. The board has been set and everything is almost complete.
“The surface of the tracks needs asphalting. We couldn’t have done it without encroaching the pitch. The tracks work will start the moment we are done with the scoreboard.”