In a five-minute stopover at Kibingoti Market in Kirinyaga County, one is fascinated by the energy displayed by arrowroot sellers as they pursue motorists along Nyeri-Nairobi highway. Activity in the market mirrors an athletics weekend meeting with special categories.
Whereas agriculture and trade sectors are thriving in the county, little focus has been given to sports development if the status of local stadiums in anything to go by.
Kirinyaga County is located in a high altitude area, has favourable weather and youthful population but the leadership is yet to fully capitalise on these.
Due to its location next to Mount Kenya, Kirinyaga County favours high altitude training in athletics but for some reason, there are no training camps in the area.
Kirinyaga has three main public stadiums - Kerugoya in Kirinyaga Central Constituency, General Kasam Stadium in Gichugu and Wang’uru Stadium in Mwea.
For lack of a suitable venue to host National Super League matches, Fortune Sacco players have had to travel a long distance to Thika Sub-county Stadium.
“We have been struggling to ferry players to Thika for training and for matches. No single stadium in the county meets standards set by Football Kenya Federation,” Fortune Sacco FC secretary Timothy Muthike says.
But much focus has been directed to Kerugoya Stadium which, according to the county’s development blueprint dubbed ‘Mountain Cities Blueprint 2032’, falls under the ‘Wellness City’ segment that puts emphasis on promoting health and developing other facilities to stop lifestyle-related diseases.
Kirinyaga County government has done 50 per cent of work to upgrade Kerugoya Stadium.
Sh28 million was budgeted for the first phase of the project that entails construction of a perimeter wall, terraces, an ablution block, work on the football pitch and installation of a standard athletics track.
The perimeter wall is 80 per cent complete and the athletics track as well as the football pitch have taken shape. Grass has been planted on the pitch and is currently being irrigated.
A barrier to separate players from fans is yet to be constructed as are changing rooms and toilets. Previously, the stadium has been nothing more than an open dusty ground with a small dais for use during political rallies and church crusades. The locals would use the grounds for grazing.
Youth empowerment centre
Some 28 kilometres from Kerugoya town, the county government has started upgrading Wang’uru Stadium at a cost of Sh25 million. It will have terraces, an ablution block, a football pitch and an athletics track. The stadium has already been fenced.
Locals look forward to using the sports facility.
“After a day’s work, we need to go somewhere and relax by playing match. Work on the stadium is long overdue,” local cart operator Stephen Waweru said.
Wang’uru Stadium has an operational youth empowerment centre built using Mwea Constituency Development Funds in 2014-2015.
But upgrading of General Kasam Stadium is yet to start.
Governor Anne Waiguru has said that in upgrading Kerugoya Stadium, the county targets to host more local, regional and national sporting events to generate more revenue.
She said good infrastructure will enable youth to nurture and showcase their sporting potential through tournaments, and to keep youth from bad behaviour.
“We as Government have a responsibility to create every opportunity for youth to nurture and exploit their full potential,” Waiguru said, adding that once complete, Kirinyaga Stadium will host football, volleyball, and rugby tournaments as well as athletics competitions.
She said at least 400 local youth clubs will benefit through provision of sports equipment and through participation in tournaments such as inter-county championships.