Leisure 

Sunday, December 01, 2013 

The woes of running a multi-sports stadium

Football seems to be the most lucrative form of sports business or at least it seems to have many well-wishers pumping money into it even without expecting immediate returns.This makes you wonder why the Mandela National Stadium (MNS), near Kampala, is in dire need of renovation or general overhaul. Taking into account that the country acquired it through a Ush40 billion ($16m) grant from the Chinese government, how then has the country  failed to minimumly maintain and maximize its potential? That is the big debate in Kampala.

Perhaps the stakeholders and management have not taken note of what other world renowned national stadiums are doing to survive. For instance, how about the new Wembley Stadium in England. We can take a few pointers from how the developed countries handle such high-profile developments, where feasible studies are carried out long before the stadiums are built.

And most especially assessing how the stadium will be able to generate revenues to maintain it and even make profits thus making them viable projects to take on. A case in point is when the British said they would tear down one of the stadiums they had  built for the Olympics. Most people wondered and thought ‘What a waste of money.’ But the explanation was clear. Bringing the stadium down and replacing it with condominiums was a more feasible future investment than leaving the stadium that had already served its purpose.

Wembley stadium is covered by specially designed protective panels for rock concerts which creates space for up 25,000 fans to stand, making it a favorite concert venue for events managers. This should ensure that the the turf is not damaged as has been the excuse after shows have taken place at Mandela Stadium. Investment in extra specifications will make the stadium more profitable. 

But without crying over spilt milk let’s say that ship has sailed. What is it that can be done now to make Mandela national stadium more profitable and a worthy patriotic venture to generate much needed in come?

Asked about the future and plans of the Stadium, the Managing Director of MNS (the company that runs the stadium0,  Jamil Sewanyana, said the stadium is slowly being turned into a business entity that can run itself and not rely on the government.

In any case, the  government does not provide much contribution to the stadium maintenance, which is reason enough for the high rates people have to pay in order to use the facilities.

The rates have discouraged more people from taking on the services offered by the stadium. That the stadium is now a second class grade in the ranking of planned public private partnership which is still in the works, this would invite new stakeholders and thus have a profit driven incentive and hopefully put the stadium in better shape. Currently the volleyball area is being occupied by two clubs that pay a monthly fee of Ush500,000 for the services on offer and the football field has four teams that use it on a regular basis.

Two of the teams are from the premier league and they also pay Ush500,000 per month and the other two are from the big league like new boys Hope FC that regard Nambole as their home turf paying Ugsh250,000 ($100) monthly. Other sports like rugby and tennis are being courted to take up and utilize the available services for games.Mark Namanya, who is  Uganda Sports Press Association (USPA)  president, is involved with the stadium. He says the stadium has a lot of potential and that the public private partnership is the best way forward for the facility. “A lot has been neglected and something needs to be done,” he adds.

Meanwhile Brian, a sports analyst, thinks the stadium needs to look at the bigger picture because sports is being professionalized with different sources of sponsorship coming into play.

For example rugby teams and basketball including netball clubs.

Which means the stadium can target this new style of management in sports but also be cautious about the amounts they charge as this might still discourage potential clients for the services it has on offer.

The stadium is now about 14 years old and incidences like the camping of SPC or police trainees at the stadium have to be ear marked as some of the things that have set it back. But with the new management in place it is not all doom and gloom because they have a lot to offer and if the shareholders that is Ministry of Education and Sports plus the Ministry of Finance can avail them with the assistance they need the stadium might actually be able to exploit its potential because

It has extra facilities like a 61 room hotel, massive parking space, conference rooms, all sports facilities and with partnerships like Airtel joining them the sky is the limit but for now Uganda can clearly not afford its own national Staduim but at least some structures are being put in place to convert this situation and with God’s help the stadium might actually get to a point where we can afford it and actually take it back to its past beauty and something we can be proud of.  

 

By Neville Igasira, Sunday, December 01st, 2013