Renowned for producing great footballers, among them the legendary James Siang’a, it is disappointing that Siaya County does not have a standard stadium.
What has been known to locals as Siaya County Stadium has been nothing more than an open dusty field with patches of grass that quickly turns into one big pool of mud whenever it rains. With the exception of this year, political rallies, sports activities and Agricultural Society of Kenya trade fairs have been held at the grounds.
When Governor Cornel Rasanga took over leadership of the county in 2013, young footballers in the county became pregnant with hope that he would build the first modern stadium in Siaya but this quickly dissipated when Rasanga finished his first term in office without laying a single foundation stone for a stadium.
Fast forward to October 30 last year, there was a glimmer of hope when an animated Rasanga presided over the signing of a contract for construction of a new 20,000-seater stadium from the ground up at a cost of Sh394 million. The project was undertaken as part of 2018/2019 Siaya County Integrated Development Programme.
“The county government of Siaya has committed to improving sports infrastructure in the county with a view to increasing citizens’ access to ultra-modern facilities required for nurturing and exposing talent. The county government has committed to construct a new stadium to meet these ends,” Rasanga said during the launch of the project last year.
According to Siaya County Director of Communication Jerry Ochieng, the Kenyan subsidiary of Chinese company Jiangsu Provincial Construction Group won the tender to build the stadium to enable it host national and international matches. The contractor moved to the site on January 18.
The project, which sits on 19.9 acres of land, was meant to take 10 months and involves construction of a running track two main terraces, a VIP area, an ablution block, changing rooms for teams, an amphitheatre as well as installation of flood lights. When complete, it will be home to Division One League team Bondo United. It is also expected to generate revenue for the county through sports tourism.
Almost a year since the project was launched, implementation has moved at a slow pace, although Rasanga insists work is on schedule.
“The stadium will reach a practical completion on December 6, but June 2020 is the final completion date,” Rasanga told Nation Sport on Friday.
Construction of two main terraces and the VIP area has started, and the contractor has dug up and levelled the pitch. A perimeter wall has also been erected around the stadium. Once complete, it will be managed by the County Stadia Management Committee.
The county government is also upgrading facilities elsewhere in the county. According to 2019/2020 Siaya County Fiscal Strategy Paper which sets out broad development priorities and policy interventions, the county has pledged to focus on completing sports infrastructure in Siaya and Migwena stadia, distribution of sports equipment, undertaking sporting activities in the county, routine repairs and maintenance of sports facilities at Siaya County Stadium as well as Migwena, Akala and Mahaya sports grounds.
According to the 201-2022 Integrated Development Plan for Siaya County seen by Nation Sport, the county government has 12 sports facilities namely; Siaya County Stadium and Bondo Sports Complex as well as playing grounds in Migwena, Akala, Nyilima, Mahaya, Usenge, Muhondo, Yala, Hawagaya, Uasi and Uhembo. Other than Siaya County Stadium, the county government is also upgrading Migwena sports grounds in South Sakwa Ward by constructing an ablution block, changing rooms and two pavilions.
An allocation of Sh5 million to design Migwena sports grounds in Bondo sparked debate in the County Assembly in May, coming soon after Sh10 million had been allocated in the current financial year for the upgrade. Akala Stadium in South Gem Ward was upgraded in the 2017/2018 financial year. It had caught the attention of social media users with ambiguous signage on the gate last year.