When Embu Governor Martin Wambora took office in 2013, key among his flagship projects was Embu Stadium.
Nestled in the middle of Embu town, the stadium stands majestically at the foot of Mt Kenya, and is among the things that immediately catch one’s attention along the Meru-Nairobi road.
It is here that members of world-conquering Team Kenya cross country teams sharpen their skills after training at the high altitude Kigari grounds.
It is also here that former London Marathon and Amsterdam Marathon champion Daniel Wanjiru, and former Paris Half Marathon champion Morris Munene train.
Caroline Nyaguthii, who represented Kenya in 2019 African Championships, and walking race legend Grace Wanjiru among others train.
You will almost always find former world 10,000 metres champion Charles Kamathi at the stadium training with young athletes, mainly from Kenya Police Service.
However, due to protracted political wrangles in 2013 and 2014, the stadium was sucked into the controversies and was among the projects that saw Wambora twice risk impeachment.
The MCAs, who pushed for Wambora’s impeachment, claimed that an initial Sh50 million which had been budgeted to be used for erecting a perimeter fence around the stadium and wire barriers, planting grass and construction of a proper drainage system had been misappropriated.
He survived impeachment. Cumulatively, the stadium has been allocated approximately Sh300 million in successive years.
At the time, top Kenyan Premier League teams like Tusker, KCB and AFC Leopards had expressed interest in using the stadium as their home ground due to its proximity to Nairobi.
In January 2017, AFC Leopards, under coach Stewart Hall, camped at the stadium for several days.
The county government had constructed terraces, dressing rooms, ablution blocks, and a VIP stand, then promised to complete the canopy for the terraces.
The county government had promised to instal an artificial track inside the stadium and to increase the number of terraces as well as to erect more canopies on the terraces which would be strong enough to support solar panels to power floodlights.
However, due to delay in completion of work on the facility, the club lost interest.
“They will have to significantly improve the pitch to KPL standards by erecting a fence and the various structures. Currently, the field is only good for training sessions," Hall said at the time.
Today, the stadium is in deplorable state. Grass which had been planted on the playing surface is no more, and the drainage system is at its worst, with storm water rendering it unusable during rainy seasons.
County youth empowerment and sports Chief Officer Samuel Wachira said they were still keen on ensuring the laid an eight-lane tartan track at the stadium, to increase the number of terraces and to improve the playing surface.
Wambora on Tuesday told Nation Sport that the national government had promised to finish the work, elevating the stadium to international standards.
“We shall still take them on. Just like they have done elsewhere, we are not going to spend more money on Embu stadium. We are not sons of a lesser god, if they have spent millions in other areas, they must do the same in Embu,” he said.
The delays have left the sports fraternity unamused. Embu Athletics Kenya chairman Stephen Njeru has demanded that huge tracts of land adjacent to the stadium which have over the years been grabbed be repossessed.
He said the stadium does not have sufficient parking space and lacks a netball, basketball and volleyball pitches and a warm-up area for teams.
He urged the government to improve nearby sports facilities, among them Njukiri grounds, Nembure, and Kamiu so as to handle athletics and offload the stadium. He also proposes that the pavilion be raised and sitting terraces be redone, saying are of poor quality.
“The pavilion is not raised to a good height and people at the back have to stand to watch matches. We have great talents and if the stadium is maintained,, it could nurture talent and attract investors,” says Njeru.
Nyandarua AK secretary Lawrence Miano said Embu Stadium can become one of the best sports venues in the country.
“Embu is well known as a high attitude training ground. The athletes who succeed here go on to make great champions,” he said.