Rarely does a season end without the Kenyan Premier League (KPL) banning Thika Sub-county Stadium in Kiambu County from hosting matches due to its poor playing surface.
Currently, the stadium is home ground for at least 10 local teams - nine playing in the lower-tier leagues (Thika United, Fortune Sacco FC, Commercial FC, Bidco United, Mtaa FC, and Muranga Seal) and women’s Premier League team Thika Queens.
In 2015, the Kiambu County Government announced it had set aside Sh60 million for rehabilitating stadiums in the county. Machel Waikenda, then County Executive for Sports and Youth, said refurbishment of Thika Sub-county Stadium would be done in phases. Phase One would include construction of two additional terraces, fencing the stadium, building toilets and construction of two water tanks.
Simbaline General Services won the tender for the first phase, moved to the site and started work in late 2015. But there was a problem. Valuation for construction of stands was done before architectural designs were done. Simbaline Director Luke Gathua explains that when the designs were ready, Sh4 million that had been set aside for the work proved inadequate.
“From the drawings, the stands were bigger and money set aside for the work was not enough. If we were to do the job according to the drawings, it would cost a minimum of Sh20 million, yet only Sh4 million was allocated for the work. We therefore agreed with the county government to do the work up to the stage the Sh4 million would be exhausted, and that is what we did,” said Gathua.
"We did the job up to to the point Sh4 million that was provided was depleted. The money wasn’t enough to finish the construction of the two stands that were to hold 600 fans each. We did what we were paid to do and everything was accounted for. If work is to continue, due process has to be followed. The Ministry of Public Works which heads any construction work done by the counties needs to advice the county and afterwards, a supplementary budget could be set aside and a re-tendering done. The other work, including building of a toilet block and fencing the stadium, was completed,” he added.
Karungu wa Thang’wa, the current County Executive in charge of Sports and Youth Affairs, says the biggest impediment to refurbishment of Thika Sub-county Stadium and all other public sports facilities in Kiambu is lack of money.
“The docket is underfunded and it is very difficult to rehabilitate these facilities. The will is there but there’s very little we can do without money. For instance in the last financial year, no money was allocated for development and renovation of existing facilities in the county. I asked for Sh240 million to work on sports facilities mainly Thika, Ruiru, Kirigiti, Kanjeru, Lari and Limuri, but I got nothing. We are working hard to see if a supplementary budget for the same can be passed but currently our governor (Ferdinand Waititu) is out of office due to an ongoing court case. By law, his deputy (James Nyoro) cannot make such approvals,” Karungu told Nation Sport.
“I have presented a proposal to Kiambu County cabinet seeking approval to allow us to seek private partners and funding from other sources to develop these sports facilities and this will be key for us in the long term,” he added.
In October 2017, former Gor Mahia fullback Karim Nizigiyimana picked a fatal ankle injury while playing on the bumpy Thika Sub County Stadium in a league match against Mathare United. The playing surface is currently in fairly good condition.
Francisca Njeri, the officer in charge of the facility, reckons they’ve learnt the hard way.
“Many teams use this stadium and after being banned many times, we have had to be very strict. We no longer allow teams to train here, not even Thika United. Only league matches and friendly matches that have been approved can be hosted here. We also regulate use of the facility for non-sporting events and the results are evident. We now have water sprinklers and this has helped improve the condition of the pitch,” Njeri said.
Tomorrow: Focus on Kirigiti Stadium, Kiambu County.