As President Uhuru Kenyatta's tenure comes to an end, his administration will count five of six stadia in the Mt Kenya region among its list of delivered promises.
Of the five, one stadium is complete while four are at 99 per cent completion. Of the Sh3 billion spent on the construction of new stadia and Sh2.8 billion spent for rehabilitating existing ones, Mt Kenya received Sh2.5 billion for the six stadia.
The stadia whose construction and rehabilitation works was started by Jubilee are Wanguru (Kirinyaga), Kirigiti (Kiambu), Kirubia (Chuka), Kinoru (Meru), Ruringu (Nyeri), and Karatu in Kiambu Couty.
Wanguru and Kirigiti stadia were built from scratch while the others have been rehabilitated.
According to a Presidential Delivery Unit’s document of the overview of stadia works, Wanguru stadium was constructed at a cost of Sh311 million and completed in October last year.
The stadium hosted this year’s Mashujaa Day celebration, which fast-tracked its completion.
“The 15,000 seater stadium has been upgraded to Fifa standards with a football field, Asphalt running track, VIP pavilion, ablution block and a police post,” the PDU noted.
Before construction works, the space was open ground with poor drainage and field terrain used for local games.
Kirigiti has used Sh597 million (16,000 seater), Kirubia Sh274 million, (2000 seater) Kinoru Sh869 million (20,000 seater) and Ruring’u Sh288 million (20,000 seater). They are at 99 per cent completion while Karatu stadium is at 48 per cent due to what PDU attributes to ‘a challenge with the contractor’s capacity and that a new one will be awarded to continue with the project’.
“The 1500 seat project’ works have stalled due to contractor’s bankruptcy and lack of financial capacity,” read part of the document by the PDU secretary for delivery Andrew Wakahiu.
The other projects are only awaiting the snag list completion and final appraisal for them to be declared complete. All have been upgraded to FiFA standards and have VIP lounges and changing rooms.
In 2013, the Jubilee government promised five new national stadia and upgrade existing sporting facilities across the country.
By this month, the government said it has constructed four new stadia where two are completed, ten are rehabilitated and seven are in the pipeline.
PDU said the new stadia have a sitting capacity of 56,000 while the rehabilitated ones have a capacity of 172,000.
The main challenge outlined by Sports Kenya, whose mandate is to establish, manage, develop and maintain sports facilities, was a delay in disbursements that slowed down the works.
According to Rakki Asman, a public relations officer at Sports Kenya, "The delayed disbursement of funds has been the greatest challenge while in a case like Kirubia, inadequate supply of water delayed the works since the borehole dug did not yield sufficient water."
A spot check on the multi-billion shillings infrastructure development initiated in the last ten years, paints a picture of new developments that are expected to transform the regional economic status for decades.
Wanguru for example has given rise to other business opportunities other than the rice trade but has only been the source of living for most residents.
The facility has raised Kirinyaga County’s profile as national league matches and other competitions will be held at the stadium.
Strategically situated along the Embu-Nairobi highway and with a good road network around the Mt Kenya region, Wang’uru Stadium will serve parts of Eastern, Nairobi and Central.
Steve Mutugi, a resident, said construction of the stadium has also contributed to other development projects such as the construction of an additional 13km of tarmac road.
“The stadium has uplifted the face of the town and it has given it a new lease of life, it is now a matter of time for the national matches and other sporting activities to be brought closer to us so that we can use the opportunity to sell to them our cash crop; the rice,’ said Mutugi.
President Kenyatta’s other flagship project, through Sports Kenya, was the renovation of Kinoru stadium to international standards, undertaken by Toddy Construction.
North Imenti Mp Rahim Dawood said while they were satisfied now that the 25,000-seater had been completed, the national government had reneged on its pledge to build a police station and offices for Assistant County Commissioner and Chief.
"There is no police station at Kinoru stadium, yet we need security,” said Dawood.
For Nyeri residents, Ruringu stadium reminds them of the struggle for independence and its rehabilitation is an honour to the freedom fighters who converged at the grounds after colonial masters agreed to leave the country.
Founding President Mzee Jomo Kenyatta visited the stadium and convinced the fighters who remained in the forest even after independence, to come out from their hideouts and converge at the stadium.
The first President led the freedom fighters to lay down their arms at the ‘flag of free Kenya’ at the stadium on December 16, 1963. The fighters included Field Marshals Muthoni Kirima, Mutungi, Kavote and Generals Kahonoki, and Sukumambele, among others.
“We read from history that the stadium is synonymous with our forefathers who gave their lives for the liberation of this country from the hands of our colonisers and therefore upgrading it to international standards does not only expose us to the regional, national and international community but also honours the Mau Mau veterans,” said Theuri Nderitu, a resident of Nyeri town.
In Kiambu, the upgrade of the historic Kirigiti stadium is slowly changing the once sleepy town as prices of land and houses skyrocket.
In a stadium known for being used to make historical political decisions such as endorsing President Uhuru Kenyatta in 2001 by the county leaders and the last rally of the pro-2010 constitution by the late Mwai Kibaki and former Prime Minister Raila Odinga, the upgrade has seen land prices skyrocket.
The hospitality industry is also booming in the area which is only 20 minutes drive from the city centre. It is, after all, a choice accommodation hub for low-income earners.
“Investors are rushing against time to establish modern restaurants and hotels so that when sporting activities begin, they will offer services such as lodgings, food and beverages,” Paul Njogu, a resident in Kirigiti, said.
According to Maina Muturi, a Kiambu County Governor advisory member, the stadium is ideal for sporting activities such as athletics being 2,000m above sea level.
“With this kind of geographical location and the kind of stadium that we have, we are ready to host national and international athletes coming for build-up and exercise here. We are more or less like Iten in terms of altitude and weather. If this happens, even the economy of this county will improve, and we shall champion this till fruition,” Muturi added.