After renaming the Narok Stadium in honour of former Cabinet Minister William Ole Ntimama, plans are now underway to upgrade the venue to international standards.
The 30,000-seater stadium is now known as “William Ole Ntimama Stadium” after the government agreed to a request by Maasai leaders to rename the facility after the late Maasai supremo who died on September 1, 2016.
In a colorful unveiling ceremony on February 22, this year the Cabinet Secretary for Sports, Culture and Heritage, Amina Mohamed, said the late leader had a vision to uplift the community.
“Hon. William Ole Ntimama believed in the vision of the stadium and championed its establishment when he was elected the Chairman of the Narok County Council in 1974, a position he held for 15 years,” Amina said during the ceremony attended by Narok County Governor Samuel Ole Tunai, among other leaders. “There is also amazing crop of talent hailing from Narok County, who have benefitted from the stadium and who stand as beacons of hope for others to rise to national heroes and heroines’ status akin to 800 metres world and Olympic champion David Lekuta Rudisha,” she said.
“The request by the Maa Community to have the Narok Stadium’s name changed from Narok Stadium to Ole Ntimama Stadium in honor of the community hero, William Ole Ntimama has been accepted by the government,” Amina later said in a speech read on her behalf during a prayer meeting at the stadium.
She said the national government was committed to working with county governments to upgrade stadia in the counties using the model and example set by the Narok County Government.
The stadium got a shot in the arm after the Ministry of Interior and the Narok County government spent over Sh98 million in upgrading it and building more terraces.
The running track was worked on, and VIP dais improved to presidential standards after President Uhuru Kenyatta announced that last year’s Madaraka Day celebrations, which had been scheduled to be held in Kajiado, were shifted to Narok.
However, since the Madaraka Day celebrations, there’s been little activity regarding stadium works with the county government having apparently lost momentum.
The stadium was built following a request to the Ministry of Local Government by the defunct Narok Town Council in 2013.
Some Sh313.6 million was allocated for the project which involved construction of the playing field, a running track and VIP terraces, with an initial capacity of 5,000.
After completion of the first phase in 2017, work was to begin on the second phase that included construction of more terraces, a swimming pool, basketball courts, a lower boundary wall and landscaping.
The stadium, which sits on an 11-acre piece of land, has 10 entry and exit gates with a parking capacity of 200 cars.
Two changing rooms, referee rooms, ablution blocks and a perimeter wall are some of the key features of the stadium. Located just 80 kilometres from the world-famous Masai Mara Game Reserve, Narok Stadium has huge potential for sports tourism.
Benson Kariuki, an experienced sports administrator, currently managing the stadium on behalf of the Narok County Government, is already working on programmes that will see the stadium cash in on its location next to the Mara. “It’s surprising that we were not selected to host African Nations Championship (Chan) matches, yet what we have here can host such a tournament, especially with the completion of the second phase of the project and our strategic location next to the Masai Mara,” Kariuki said.
The county government has allocated Sh35 million for building a modern swimming pool, volleyball pitch, basketball court, and a garden next to the Mara River in the next phase of the project.
Athletes from the region who have used the stadium include Olympics 800 metres champion David Rudisha, 800m Commonwealth Games champion Wycliffe Kinyamal, former world champion in the 1,500m Elijah Manangoi and world Under-20 champion in the 5,000m champion Edward Zakayo.
The stadium hosted the third edition of Athletics Kenya Track and Field events August last year but officials had to reduce the length of the field which is longer by 35 metres.
The field has been hosting an array of Kenya Premier League matches with Sofapaka taking it as its home ground.
Locals are concerned that the county government seems to be blowing hot and cold, offering huge promises on the stadium but going slow on its upgrade immediately President Kenyatta’s motorcade exited its gates at the end of last year’s Madaraka day celebrations.