Bogambara ground hanging towards a slow death? | Sunday Observer

Bogambara ground hanging towards a slow death?

The only public playground in Kandy is the famous Bogambara Stadium in the heart of the city which has for over several decades been used for all sports particularly by all schools and clubs, for carnivals, district sports meets, political gatherings, public meeting and so on. Maintenance had the least priority but as the demand in those days were limited there was no actual request to upgrade this valuable sports arena especially the playing surface. In recent years the demand has become great with schools in Kandy increasing their requests for grounds which the authorities could not cope with.

Under the Kandy Municipality Council the allocation of grounds was done in a manner that didn’t become an issue to those making the reservations, as whatever the problem was it was sorted out among them. Once this stadium was vested with the Sugathadasa Complex the entire management changed and the facilities were only confined to sports but on the contrary the demand annually became greater with more schools and less venues resulting in excessive use of the Bogambara Stadium with no maintenance at all.

This situation becomes a major threat to the school children as they are exposed to poor ground conditions that will lead to major injuries or permanent disability. Several requests have been made to upgrade the stadium, but except for structural development providing indoor sports facilities the playing field has not been given any attention at all. Sports like rugby, football, hockey and athletics can cause injuries and the child may be a victim which could be a sad state of affairs.

At present the Bogambara Stadium ground needs a face lift and a program to upkeep the venue to cater to the schools and public. This stadium is one of the oldest grounds in the country. School sports meets are held these days and most of the participants suffer injuries due to poor ground conditions. Parents are the most concerned after the meet due to injuries suffered by their children.

Holding a school sports meet is not advisable under these conditions or any rugby games. Mostly rugby matches are played during this season. The stadium has a capacity to accommodate over 30,000 spectators for sports ranging from rugby, football, hockey, athletics, netball, basketball and softball cricket. Earlier the stadium was the main cricket venue; even overseas teams have played here. Sometime back there was a proposal that the Bogambara Stadium should be named “Duncan White Stadium” in recognition of the great athlete who brought honour to Sri Lanka at the Olympics.

It is understood that he also trained at Bogambara while at Trinity College. In the early days it was also used for sports like Elle and Gudu. Going back to its past Bogambara Stadium was converted from a lake to a playing field in the year 1897. At one time, it was the site for the annual Perahera carnivals, games circuses and gymkhana activities and even an execution ground during the British occupation. From 1957 to the 1960s, Bogambara was used as a makeshift central market premises due to the demolition of the old market to construct the new one. It also needs proper management.

The sports loving public and in particular the schools have fervently appealed to the Minister of Sports to consider the issue very important and essential and addressed as a top priority.

A number of sporting clubs including Kandy Sports Club, Young Stars SC, Young Wanders SC, Green Field SC and schools including St. Anthony’s College, Trinity College, Sri Rahula College, St. Paul’s (now known as Sri Sumangala College), Dharmaraja College and Kingswood College used the venue for cricket, football, rugby, hockey and athletics. The first unofficial cricket Test in the country was played at this ground.

When the ground was under the Municipal Council it served as a venue for various sports. The Bogambara ground which became a Stadium after the 1972 renovation, thanks to the Commissioner of the Municipal Council MB Samarakoon, who initiated the renovation work with support coming from people like EL Senanayake, Noel Wimalasena, Shelton Ranaraja and Tilak Ratnayake. Others who gave a hand were EW Balasuriya a sports promoter who assisted in raising donations, Chandra Wijenayake, Dr. CDL Fernando, late AMIN Marinara, late M. Shanmugam, Superintendent of Police CP and late ME Marikar.

They did their best and put up terraces round the venue. There were also many more donors the names of which were displayed in front of the pavilion, but today all those names are erased. All the good work was done, as most of the schools and clubs heavily depended on this stadium for their sports almost every day and the owners of the ground the Municipal Council gave them their fullest co-operation.

Then in early 1990s, when a request was made by this writer when he was the Sports Committee Chairman of the KMC and late DIG Bodi Liyanage, the late president R. Premadasa gave a hand to upgrade the Sugathadasa Stadium and the running track which was removed from the Colombo stadium was given to the Bogambara stadium. Then the late Mayor Edmund Pathirana and the late Chief Minster WMPB Dissanayake gave a big hand to lay the track.

Again in 1997 the Bogambara stadium was upgraded due to the efforts of Anuruddha Ratwatte. It was re-developed under the patronage of the Municipal Council with plans to have the Independence Day celebrations at the stadium which was called off due to the bomb blast in Kandy.

To do the renovations the Sports Ministry took over the stadium and promised to return it back. But failed to do so and sportsmen are suffering today especially the footballers, hockey players, athletes and the fitness runners.

After the renovation the Sports Ministry took it over. In the early days before Asgiriya came in cricket was played at Bogambara. Today the Sports Ministry Sugathadasa National Sports Complex are the owners the premises. The ground fees are on the higher side and the less affluent football and hockey clubs are finding it difficult to keep the game alive.

At present, sports in Kandy need another ground especially for football, hockey, rugby and cricket. At onetime the Bogambara Stadium, which helped in most of the sports is at present closed to such activities and most of the clubs are finding it difficult to play their matches due to high ground charges. The ground is not in a proper state for rugby as there are more injures than tries.

Sports people in Kandy are hoping that the Bogambara Stadium which is in bad shape especially the playing area will be redeveloped. The building around the stadium and the entrance may be looking good but not the playing field. Who will come forward to help in this matter is the biggest question.