Public stadia investments are white elephants

By Steve Njuguna

I’ve been thinking a lot about Stadia. Globally, big public funded sports infrastructure projects have proved to be white elephants.

They take a lot of capital but tend to bring in very little profit.

For instance, some of the huge stadia built in Equatorial Guinea for AFCON five years ago are lying derelict. Some of the facilities built for the 2010 World cup in South Africa have not been maintained to top level standards.

Another trend can be observed from Europe.

Professional teams in the big leagues can make money from the huge stadiums because they have consistent fanbases and season ticket holders. The same cannot be said for their national federations and government owned stadia.

The Olympic stadium in London has struggled to make profits in the last eight years as its considerably large and rather expensive to maintain. Recently, they were engaged by West Ham temporarily but that is ending soon.

The English FA struggle to make money from Wembley and last year’s attempted sale to a middle Eastern conglomerate was enough evidence of how difficult it is for them to make money from the stadium.

Brazil’s case is the most interesting. The stadiums renovated for their controversial 2014 World cup were also utilized for the 2016 Olympics but a huge portion of their facilities made for the Olympics like the Swimming Pools and Warm Up tracks lay abandoned, too expensive to maintain.

Back here in Kenya, we have seen our government invest massively in renovations of sporting facilities as well as construction of new ones. Putting aside all the contractual issues and the rampant corruption, is our government ready to undertake the huge costs that will come in maintenance of some of these large facilities?

Recent evidence suggest no. After hosting a successful World Youth Athletic Championships three years ago, Kasarani was in top shape.

But a quick tour of the facility now will show you kinks in the drainage and toilet system and the relatively new blue Tartan track that had been installed never looks sufficiently clean.

Its increasingly clear that maintaining the place to a top level needs more manpower and resources than the stadium itself can generate through its income.

As much as we need infrastructure projects in Sports and big stadiums help in achieving this, what will the endgame be if we get to a point where we have huge stadiums that cannot make money but also require a lot of money to maintain?

The article was first published on his Facebook Account. It is republished with his consent.

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