……As once abandoned stadium becomes cynosure of all eyes
By Ogundele Olanrewaju
Historically, Lekan Salami Sports Complex, Ademasingba, Ibadan, which has a capacity of 10,000 people, was one of the few stadia
used mostly for football matches and is the home stadium of Shooting Stars Football other local teams located in Ibadan.
The stadium was constructed in 1976 and opened 1988 for the tenant Shooting Stars.
Shooting Stars FC are an extremely successful team and have many fans. They won their first domestic trophy in 1973 and later become the first Nigerian club side to win continental trophy in 1976, when they won Cup winners cup against Zamelek of Egypt then as Western Nigeria Development Company (WNDC).
Since then, the potential of the sporting complex has, however, not been optimally utilised due to rot and decay making most facilities moribund as a result of what many believe was a lack of maintenance culture.
Over the years, many of the structures have been overtaken by bushes and taken over by reptiles till the administration of Governor’Seyi Makinde came onboard in Oyo State in 2019.
Hope once, again, came alive, as the governor took the step in August 2020, approving the renovation and remodelling the stadium that once abandoned by his predecessors in government.
Like a warrior on a mission to conquer all battles, Governor Makinde has continued to deliver good governance to the people, despite the harsh economic environment. At a time when many thought they had seen the height of quality leadership and governance in the state.
Politics in Nigeria means many things to different people. For some, the platform presents an opportunity to meet the expectations of the people who have given them the mandate to serve. But for others, it is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to get their share of the national cake.
Makinde falls in the first category. Not many would recall his perceived slow start in the first three months of his administration. There was a general feeling among many cynics that the shoes left behind by his immediate predecessor, perhaps seemed too big to fill.
But, what many thought was a slow start, Makinde tells those who care to listen that it was a period to understand the terrain and tailor out his strategies to change the face of the state from the known ‘Architect’ to a ‘Builder of Modern Oyo State forever.
Thus, while many panicked and were already passing judgment on what would become of Oyo under the successful businessman who had been given the mandate to be the governor of the state, he remained focused and confident that the storm was only but for a while.
For him, the task of governing Oyo State was not a 100-metres dash that required hasty decision making, but a four-year journey that would require careful, thorough and coordinated policy and decision making as well as careful execution.
It did not take too long before he began to exhibit his leadership acumen and a man who was not occupying an office by chance. The travails of the first few weeks in office, became a thing of the past.
In the last two years, the story has gotten even better. The man who occupies the number one seat in the Pacesetter State has become an emerging phenomenon and a shining example of what good governance should be in Nigeria.
Many fans of the Shooting Stars will now have a befitting main bowl to relish when their darling team returns to the new-look stadium in no distant time.
The remodelling of the stadium was not about Shooting Stars alone, it affords the opportunity
to bring it to FIFA standard so that the stadium can host top grade international matches and other sporting activities.
State of the art facilities are already emerging at the main bowl, while work is ongoing at the other facilities in the complex. A list of the numerous new attractions at the stadium as well as the newly-installed facilities at the other departments of the sports complex has unequivocally justified the happiness and eagerness with which some sports players training at the stadium expressed their feelings.
While commending the work by the state government, they noted that the new facilities had renewed their enthusiasm and determination to work harder and earn laurels for Oyo State and Nigeria.
For instance, the Lekan Salami Sports Complex now has completely new facilities such as a standard grass pitch, a departure from the artificial turf of the past.
In an interview with the the Project Manager, Mr. Femi James, representing Peculiar Ultimate Concerns, the new tartan track around the pitch is the best obtainable in the market. Apart from beautifying the stadium, the new track also creates conducive training and competition arena for athletes just as it serves as a kind of foyer before the pitch.
For the first time since it was created also, the Lekan Salami Sports Complex now has a training pitch, which would also serve as a kind of community centre for the Ibadan people desirous of a befitting playing field. The training pitch is one of the requirements by the world football governing body for its approval of the stadium for international football engagements. Another innovation to the sports complex is the introduction of seats. Football fans would have comfortable seats to enjoy flawless football in a modern arena. The installation of the seats also brought the seating capacity of the stadium up to 10,000 from its original 8,000.
Aside from these physical innovations, there are also electronic scoreboards, video assistant referee (VAR) facilities and pitch-side monitors. The main bowl of the Lekan Salami has also been equipped with automated floodlights and sundry lighting for the security of life and property at the complex. Thus, live transmission of matches, the Head of Electricity and Electronics, Mr Benjamin Tobrise, said can be achieved with ease just as activities in four different stadia could be monitored live at the Lekan Salami Complex. In addition to all of these, the stadium can now boast of four new separate dressing rooms, each with its wet areas.
There are also match officials’ rooms, and the comfort of officials brings innovative separation of rooms for referees, match commissioners and referee assessors, each with their up-to-date conveniences. Then there is the mixed zone, also a new area for the teams’ and officials’ usual line up minutes before the kick-off of their match. Also introduced is a youth centre/ ball boys rooms. The studio is another innovation that stands the new-look Lekan Salami Sports Complex out. The studio, according to the James, is currently the best in the country. The studio, James explained “is one of the major requirements by FIFA.”
The state-of-the-art studio, he explained, contains automated gadgets which would serve as the one-stop control for the (also new) floodlights; the new electronic scoreboards and CCTV that would show what is happening at the stands and activities at five kilometres radius of the stadium. The new stadium now comes with a clinic, hospitality suites for VIPs and power house. The passageway, which was a waste area – so to say – in the stadium has been designed to serve as a Hall of Fame, where legends of the round leather game would be honoured and their memory preserved. A new centre court for tennis with sitting and wet areas, is also being built while the indoor sports hall is undergoing serious renovation.
A new Olympic size swimming pool is coming at the complex and a new multi-purpose hall called Composite Hall for boxing, wrestling, kick-boxing, weightlifting and powerlifting is also under construction. All at Adamasingba does not preclude the massive renovation of the second oldest stadium in Nigeria: the Olubadan Stadium. The pitch of this legendary arena is being re-grassed while the stands are receiving attention too.
In thier remarks, the Chairman of the Oyo State Sports Council, Mr. Gboyega Makinde and Mr Gbenga Adewusi, the governor’s aide on sports saw a bright future and look forward to a brighter future for Oyo State sports.
The governor, has also inspected the work going on at the complex, while expressing his satisfaction on the quality job done so far.
Makinde during the inspection said: “We want to be on the map internationally by hosting international sporting events, not just football. We have seen the centre courts for Tennis, Swimming Pool project and the facilities for volleyball, boxing, kickboxing and the rest.”
He vowed to utilise sports to develop the economy of the state, saying: “So, we want to utilise sports to also develop our economy. We want to keep coming here every week by God’s grace to watch Shooting Stars play in the Premier League and to also play competitions in Africa.”
“We also want Shooting Stars to go on and play the World Club Cup competition, which I know is not beyond us.”
“We have to bring development to our people, to our city and our state. That was why we were elected in the first place.”
“Some of those projects should be nearing completion right now. We wanted to check and be sure that, indeed, what we have on ground matches the report I have been getting. And I can tell you that I am quite impressed with the contractor.”
In the same vein, massive work is going on at the Olubadan and Ikolaba stadia. Efforts are on to upgraded them to serve as practice stadia.
The aim to upgrade the smaller stadia is to reduce the pressure on the Lekan Salami Sports Complex as well as also serving host communities.
No doubt, with what Makinde has achieved in the last two years in all sectors and sections of the state, and coupled with his determination not to rest on his oars, it is certain that the next two years, hold greater prosperity and development for the people of Oyo State.