Shame of abandoned Mombasa Municipal Stadium

In the last 26 years, major continental, regional and domestic tournaments planned for Mombasa have been cancelled because of the poor standard of the stadium.

Mombasa County Secretary Joab Tumbo blames the delay in the renovation on budget constraints. The first local contractor was forced to terminate the contract due to payment delays.

The second, Turkish firm Stara Supplies and Construction Company, has suspended the works because of the same problem. The county estimates that the construction work will cost Sh1.7 billion.

"No contractor can be on the site if not paid. Mombasa is facing the worst financial constraints currently occasioned by delays in the disbursement from the exchequer," said Tumbo in an interview.

The stadium was built on 8.1-acre land by the Aga Khan Community in 1955 which leased it out to the Council of Mombasa. Its standards faded over the year until when it was closed due to public outcry.

A spot check indicates that the progress of the construction work by the Turkish firm, Stara Supplies and Construction Company, was painfully slow. The county says it will cost Sh1.7b to renovate the facility.

A view of Mombasa Municipal Stadium. Some Sh1.7 billion shillings were set aside in 2021 for renovations. [Omondi Onyango,Standard]

Mr Hamid Abubakar, the stadium manager, said Stara has not abandoned the project but the work was progressing at a slow pace "for reasons I do not know".

"The Turkish contractor is still renovating the stadium but works are going at a slow pace," said Abubakar, adding that he was not in the position to say why it has taken long.

The plan to renovate the stadium on the island was mooted in the 1990s after Kenya was nominated to host the Africa Cup of Nations.

Kenya lost its rights because its stadia were found to be below standards. Football analysts say the 1996 extravaganza would have taken the game in the country to another level.

This is because, before 1996, Harambee Stars had qualified for the cup three times in a row- 1988, 1990, and 1992. Mr. Goshi Juma Ali believes Mombasa stadium cost the country the fete.

Mr Ali, chairman of Mombasa County Football Associations, said the poor state of the Stadium denied the locals a chance to watch AFCON.

"It is a big shame that the new county administration must deal with. Kenya lost the chance to host the Africa Cup of Nations because many stadias across the country were not up to standards," he said.

In 2013, Mombasa was again stripped of the chance to host the Council of East and Central Africa Football Association (CECAFA) because of the poor state of the stadium.

In that year, former governor Hassan Joho announced a major renovation for the stadium with a capacity of over 10,000. But the work has stagnated amid swirling claims of misappropriations.

The stadium, which was home to Bandari F.C, closed down for months to lay down a modern tartan track at Sh20 million to give athletes a state of the art training equipment.

Bandari shifted its base to Mbaraki Sports Club. In 2019, the club played its Caf Confederation Cup home matches in Kasarani, Nairobi.

Businesses set up along Arab Road to cash in from opportunities that would have come with the tournament said they incurred huge losses.

"Moving Bandari's home matches to Nairobi affected us. We invested hoping for a boom that never came," said Joyce Cadence, the owner of an entertainment club opposite the stadium.

She added: "My home county Taita Taveta has Mwanyumba stadium, Machakos, Meru, and Kisii have standard stadia. Mombasa, which brags itself as the home of football has none."

Her sentiments were echoed by Ms Kadenge who said Mombasa should not look at sports as non-priority areas whose budgets should be slashed, adding that sports pay more than white-collar jobs.

"Through sports, we can end social problems like criminal gangs, nurture talents and create sports tourism. Mombasa county should prioritise the renovation of the stadium," she said.

According to the designs, it will host matches during rainy seasons.

It will also have a multipurpose basketball field, netball, futsal, and volleyball, a standard 50m swimming pool, a 790-capacity restaurant, and a 3,000 conference hall.

The stadium will have four changing rooms, separate changing rooms for men and women referees. It will also have a fully furnished media center that will rival the best in the world.

Critics of Governor Joho's administration say it shifted focus to the multi-million modern 7-aside mini stadia at the expense of the main stadium.

Some of these mini stadia include Uwanja wa Mbuzi and Bomu, which cost the county a total of Sh.160 million.

"No all the uncompleted projects are the priority for Governor Nassir. He has indicated that he will complete all those projects but the problem is finance,"said Tumbo.

He disabused the notion by Nassir's critics that the governor will not see the facility as a priority due to budget constraints.