The Nyeri County government has transformed the Othaya Stadium from an open grazing field into a usable sports facility in the last three years.
The local sports fraternity has a reason to smile after the county government allocated Sh2.6 million in the 2018/2019 budget to give the stadium a facelift. The money was set aside for a chain-link perimeter fence, gates and levelling.
Apart from being a grazing field, the stadium was also used as a public park by Othaya residents especially during weekends.
Local churches also used the stadium for their crusades due to its strategic position in the town.
Occasionally, the field serves as a helicopter landing area for politicians as they comb the area in search of votes during the campaign seasons.
The facility has a small old dais painted in national colours, two poorly maintained ablution blocks and a football pitch with sparsely growing grass.
Being the home of former President Mwai Kibaki, Othaya Stadium served as an ideal venue for his political rallies as he campaigned for the area parliamentary seat and later the top seat.
During his tenure as MP for Othaya and as the President, little was done to make the field favourable for major sports events and training.
Work at the stadium started in 2017 following a directive by President Uhuru Kenyatta.
He authorised the National Youth Service to work on the stadium following a public outcry.
The major issues were drainage and encroachment by local mitumba traders who had started putting up structures around the stadium.
The situation was so bad such that footballers used to negotiate with the traders to move their commodities from the pitch especially when players were taking corners during a match.
During the rainy seasons, the stadium could turn into a “dam” and a conducive place for breeding of frogs and mosquitoes.
But that is now in the past because the grounds were levelled and a system put in place to drain the water.
Grass was planted early last year through the assistance of the local MCA, John Theuri, at a cost of Sh80,000.
“One would wonder why this stadium has not been prioritised for upgrading given its good location and vast space. So much has been done, but much more needs to be done,” says Theuri.
The Iriaini ward representative said an additional Sh300,000 has been factored in the 2019/2020 budget for an extra gate, repairing of the ablution blocks and improving the drainage system.
Theuri hinted at plans to establish a hockey pitch and a basketball court so that Nyeri County can nurture talent.
“Since the stadium was fenced, we have seen a growing number of schools, especially private ones, coming for training here. That is why we are considering injecting more money for more sports facilities.”
Nyeri Governor Mutahi Kahiga, who is also the Central Region Athletics Kenya chairman, said that securing the field was a priority.
He called upon the youth to come out during the public participation meetings to present their agenda particularly on the matters of the stadium and talent development.
Being 16 kilometres from Nyeri town, Othaya Stadium can serve as an alternative training ground for players during major championships at the upcoming Ruring’u Stadium.
The area has a good road network making it easy for players to access the stadium from as far as Mathioya in Murang’a, Mukurweini and Tetu.
The area has potential in both football and athletics if the performance by the African Games 20 kilometres race walk champion Samuel Gathimba is anything to go by.