When Governor Zachary Okoth Obado announced an ambitious plan to refurbish the dilapidated Migori County Stadium in 2014 to international standards, there was hope for young talented sportsmen and women who had hoped to use the facility to sharpen their skills.
Six years later, the stadium that sits on a parcel of land measuring about four hectares in Migori town has turned into a hay field.
Mature grass inside the stadium is harvested by locals for use in making livestock feeds.
The stadium is an eyesore, with only a fence and a worn-out pavilion standing where a modern stadium ought to have been built.
The devolved unit was to renovate the stadium, formerly owned by the defunct Migori Municipal Council, to meet national standards but that has remained a pipe dream as football talent goes to waste.
In the 2014-2015 financial year, some Sh40 million was set aside for use in fencing the stadium. Part of the money was meant for use in levelling the grounds and for doing related work, but the contractor did a shoddy job.
After constructing a perimeter fence round the grounds, the project stalled in unclear circumstances up to date.
The devolved unit injected another Sh80 million into the same project in the current financial year but construction work is yet to resume.
Locals are now pointing accusing finger at the county government, with allegations that the project is being used as a cash cow to embezzle funds since Migori County Sports Department has not done any major development in the stadium since devolution took effect.
Early this year, the county’s department of sports had planned to spend a total of Sh400 million to construct a multi-purpose stadium at Lichota grounds in Suna West Sub-county but the plan has been abandoned, with Governor Obado understood to be keen on refurbishing the main stadium which is in a poor state.
It’s not clear why officials wanted to divert resources to another project while work on Migori County Stadium is yet to be finalised.
Governor Obado, who is serving his second and final term in office, has been at pains to explain why the stadium is incomplete.
The county boss, who termed the project ‘çostly’ is on record as having requesting Sh500 million in support from the national government.
“The stadium could not be completed because of lack of funds. We need money from the Sports Funds from the national government to support completion of the stadium,” Obado said late last year.
Migori County Executive for Sport Samson Ngariba said upgrading the stadium is part of the county's development plan for nurturing and supporting fresh sports talent from in the region.
He confirmed that in the current financial year, Migori County Stadium project had been allocated Sh80 million but he could not immediately tell why the facility has stalled.
“We are not badly off compared to other counties in this region. We have a good facility and that is why we were selected to host (youth grassroots football tournament) Chapa Dimba Championship in this region,” he told Nation Sport.
Whereas the executive claimed that the contractor was on site, a spot check by Nation Sport yesterday established that no work was going on inside the county’s main sports facility.
Some locals were spotted cutting the grass for use in feeding cows.
“Were it not for the Covid-19, the facility would be ready by now, with all the features in place,” Ngariba said.
The stadium was meant to be constructed in two phases. The first phase of the work involved installation of an underground irrigation system, planting of grass on the playing surface and construction of a perimeter fence. The first phase was to be completed in 2016.
The second phase of the work was set to commence in 2017, but the work was disrupted by political campaigns ahead of the General Election, according to Ngariba.
No work was done at the site since no money was allocated for the project.
The second phase involved putting up of two pavilions, each with a capacity for 3,000 people, construction of a seven-lane running track, and construction of modern changing rooms for teams.
Other planned improvements included installation of security lights at the stadium, and construction of offices.
Because the project lacks land for expansion, the stadium was planned to have a seating capacity of 6,000 people.
The stadium is normally used by National Super League team Migori Youth for training. The team however plays its home matches in the second-tier football league at Awendo Stadium, a private facility that has also been approved to host Kenyan Premier League matches and which is also home to Sony Sugar.
Local teams are allowed to use Migori County Stadium, but at a cost of Sh5,000 per match, according to the stadium’s manager, Zachary Chesonyi.
“We charge teams less money because the stadium is not complete. Once complete, we will double the charges,” he said.
The Chief Officer at Migori County Department of Sports, Fred Mohetai, pointed out that sports matters had been lumped together with education, something he said may have led to minimal resources being allocated to sports.
“Maybe we had directed our priorities elsewhere but we are now back. This year, we are planning to support sporting activities in a big way,” he said.
"We want to make sports more professional by improving the facility to enable this county host more sports activities, and to support sportsmen and women," he said.
He said the stadium project would be complete in the next one year.