Sports lovers in Anambra State have advised Governor Charles Soludo against converting the Awka Sports Stadium into an amusement or recreation park.
They urged him to stay focus on completing the stadium with facilities for all games.
The enthusiasts made the call when Soludo commenced work on the second section of the stadium.
They said it was the only sporting arena in the capital city and should be improved rather than converted to a tourism or leisure site.
Victor Nwangu, a veteran sports administrator, said it was improper that over 18 months after the stadium was inaugurated and approved for Nigeria Football Federation matches, floodlights and scoreboard were yet to be installed.
“It is important that all the standards are maintained so that it can host international competitions; these standards include increasing sitting capacity from the current 1,000 to a minimum of 5,000; we should have floodlights and conveniences,” he said.
Nwangu advised that the Park A section should be brought up to standard before moving into the B section, as it may result in abandoning the progress and leaving the installed facilities to decay.
“It is good that the governor is planning to develop the B section, but let this A section be completed first because matches will be going on here, and the stadium is not just about football.
“Amusement and leisure parks are not association sports, they are recreational facilities which are provided for in the master plans of cities and communities, the stadium is solely for sports,” he said.
On his part, Tony Nezianya, a veteran sports journalist, said overflow of the existing grandstand at the stadium during Rangers International matches indicated that sport was becoming popular among residents.
Nezianya, the current public relations officer of the Nigeria Olympic Committee (NOC), said Anambra was a major player in the athletes’ supply chain in Nigeria and should not be confined to a stadium that served a mono-sports purpose.
“I do not want to believe that they are planning to build anything other than facilities for competitive sports there, it will not be in the best interest of the masses,” he said.
In the same vein, the Sports Writers Association of Nigeria (SWAN), Anambra chapter, while commending Soludo for resuming work at the Awka stadium, opposed converting it to an amusement and leisure park.
Anthony Oji, the chairman of SWAN in the state, described the move as an attempt to render the teaming Anambra athletes and the entire sporting community homeless.
He said the stadium was for sports, and much was left to be done to make the Awka stadium a sports arena befitting a state with rich sports traditions like Anambra.
“He should build sports infrastructure such that Anambra can host national competitions and festivals; converting that place to leisure parks will amount to banishing sports from the state,” he said.
In a reaction, Christian Aburime, press secretary to Soludo, said the governor was not converting the stadium to a leisure park.
Aburime said only the vast undeveloped area within the stadium would be used for the recreational park, which was meant to create a tourism ambience in Awka.
According to him, the government is trying to build a megacity with good tourism facilities so that residents and visitors can have a place to go and relax.
“Governor is not converting the stadium to an amusement park; the stadium remains as it is,” he said.
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