It is 8pm and we are on a fact-finding mission on the state of stadiums in Narok County. As we drive into Narok town, bright lights from Narok Stadium catch our attention, and we head straight to the gate.
We explain our mission to two guards manning the gates, and we are ushered into a floodlit field decorated in the colours of the Kenyan flag.
Security is tight because some sportsmen and women train late into the night, we are told.
We go back to the sports facility the next day and we instantly notice the beauty behind the gates.
The 30,000-seater 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 project got a shot in the arm after the Ministry of Interior and Narok County government spent Sh98 million more in upgrading the stadium, and building more terraces.
The running track was renovated, and VIP dais improved to ‘presidential standards.’
This is after President Uhuru Kenyatta announced the Madaraka Day celebrations, which had been scheduled to be held in Kajiado, would be held in Narok.
The stadium, which sits on an 11-acre piece of land, has 10 entry and exit gates with a parking capacity of 200 cars.
The military also built a bridge that would allow easy access to the stadium from Narok town.
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 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 use the stadium include Olympics 800 metres champion David Rudisha, 800m Commonwealth Games champion Wycliffe Kinyamal, and World Under-20 Championships 5,000m champion Edward Zakayo.
Rudisha hailed the government for building the stadium, but added that a similar facility should be built in places like Ngong in Kajiado County which is a high altitude area conducive for athletes.
"The stadium project is good but we need one in a high altitude area where many athletes train. The stadium could have been built in a place like Ngong to benefit athletes directly because it's under-utilised," said Rudisha.
The stadium hosted the third edition of Athletics Kenya Track and Field events two months ago but officials had to reduce the length of the field which is longer by 35 metres.
Tomorrow: Focus on Bukhungu Stadium, Kakamega County