By Salawudeen Olawale
The Lagos State Government, Akinwunmi Ambode, today Wednesday declared its readiness to take over the National Stadium, Surulere from the Federal Government and transform it into a world-class sporting center.
The multi-purpose stadium, which comprises an Olympic-size swimming arena and a multipurpose arena used for basketball, volleyball, table tennis, wrestling and boxing matches, has been a deplorable condition for years.
Governor Akinwunmi Ambode, who inspected the facilities in the stadium, alongside the Minister of Youth and Sports, Mr. Solomon Dalung; the President of Nigeria Football Federation, Mr. Amaju Pinnick; and other top government functionaries, decried the decrepit state of the edifice.
He disclosed that it was unfortunate how things had degenerated, but expressed preparedness to hit the ground running towards restoring the stadium’s past glory once officially handed over to the state.
The governor disclosed that repositioning the stadium would create employment for residents in the state.
He said, “This visit is very historic. I recall that during our campaign, we promised that we are going to use tourism, entertainment and arts and sports to drive youth employment as well as drive excellence. So, this is just one chapter in that roadmap to growing the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of Lagos.
“With the state of affairs here, we cannot fold our arms and just leave this monument to just waste away. The last match that was played here was about fifteen years ago, but the truth is this, the inner key to youth empowerment and youth employment is actually in re-establishing this edifice to its real-world class standard.”
Dalung expressed confidence in the ability of the State Government to transform stadium.
He said, “We have gone round and we have seen the edifice in a sorry state. Whatever we can do to arrest the situation, we must do it. In my village, there is an adage, which says once there is fire disaster, there is no choice of liquid and any liquid that can contribute to extinguishing the fire, must be mobilized including liquor. But today, we have a disaster and we must do everything possible to extinguish it.
“I want to thank the Governor for finding time to come. I have received what I can call football gossip from football federation that if the Surulere Stadium is handed over to Lagos and renovated in six months, the next match of Nigeria against Zambia would be played here.”
He also appealed to Governor Ambode to revamp the Stationary Stores Football Club of Lagos.
Some of the facilities inspected at the Stadium include the Molade Okoya Tennis Hall, 3000 Capacity Multi-Purpose Indoor Sports Hall, Beach Soccer Pitch, Synthetic Football Pitch and the 38,000 Capacity Main Bowl Football Field.