Two years on, hope at last for completion of Afraha Stadium

A section of the Afraha Stadium which is being upgraded at a cost of Sh681 million. [Kennedy Gachuhi, Standard].

The ongoing upgrade of Afraha Stadium could be completed in the next one month.

Due to delays in completing the project, the County Assembly Sports Association (CASA) had to seek alternative grounds for its games this year. CASA hosted the sports at the ASK Showground and at Kabarak University grounds.

Nakuru City Manager Gitau Thabanja says that the project is now 79 per cent complete with a dream to upgrade the 74-year-old stadium to international standards.

The upgrade of the stadium is being done at Sh683 million, Sh32 million more than the initial budget funded by the World Bank through the County Government of Nakuru.

According to the initial timelines, the project, which began on April 30, 2021, was to be completed within 14 months, a period which was to end by June 2022.

More than a year past the deadline, the project is still under construction inconveniencing sportsmen and women with the cost of the first phase having increased by over Sh30 million.

During a spot check at the construction site, The Standard established that the contractor is currently roofing the two pavilions and setting up the running tracks.

A section of Moi Road which separated the stadium’s main field and Afraha Annex has also been closed and is being converted into an access route and parking space for guests at the VIP pavilion.

Labourers are working overtime to beat the new deadlines, with the county government planning to have it usable by September. Plans are also underway to have it commissioned by the president before December.

Nakuru City Manager Gitau Thabanja revealed the reasons behind the delays, citing management of the project as one of the main challenges.

“At the beginning, there were some vital city utilities passing through the stadium. They took four months to relocate. We also experienced management challenges,” said Thabanja.

To ensure value for money is realised, the contractor receives payments against certificates issued based on work completed, inspected and approved as up to the standards.

Thabanja revealed that in the past, there had been delays in paying the contractor against the issued certificates, limiting his ability to proceed with the project at the expected speed.

“At the beginning, some of the certificates were issued but payments were delayed by up to a month. There is one which took four months. This interfered with the overall timelines of the project,” said Thabanja.

After the transition, the city manager said that he raised the concerns with the new administration and agreed on a new framework to expedite the project.

“Governor Susan Kihika introduced a new management team that has been on its toes. We have come up with a work schedule that ensures everything is being done on strict deadlines,” he said.

Thabanja says that to speed up the project, it was further agreed that the contractor be paid every week and workers at the project paid daily as a way of motivating them.

“In half the period the contractor covered 38 per cent of the project, he has now moved it to 79 per cent. The first two pavilions are almost complete. The executive dias is being worked on,” said Thabanja.

Slight modifications to the project have also led to the extension of the set timelines and the total cost of the first phase.

The first phase was to include two pavilions, a football pitch, changing rooms, a media centre and the installation of a prefabricated all-weather tartan track for athletics.

“We introduced underground tanks for water supply. We also introduced irrigation systems to keep the pitch green at all times. The variations pushed the cost up from Sh651 million to Sh683 million. This variation was within the World Bank guidelines for its projects,” he said.

Thabanja further revealed that the county’s aim was to ensure that the stadium meets international standards some of which if hurried would have it disqualified from hosting global events.

“Apart from the international guidelines, we are involving Athletics Kenya and Football Kenya Federation to ensure we don’t miss even an inch. This will make it a preferred stadium in the country for international competitions,” he said.

Upon completion of the first phase, the stadium will be in a position to hold up to 10,000 people while the second phase will allow the facility to host double the number.

“The county government is expediting the completion of this first phase to open the doors for it to receive funding for the second phase. Once complete, the stadium will host field and track events alongside other sporting activities such as swimming,” he said.