Sunday Observer Online


Sunday, 25 December 2011





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Many programs to promote sports in Sri Lanka

The Sunday Observer spoke to the Chairman of the Sugathadasa National Sports Complex Authority, Brigadier Priyanka Samaratunge about the developments in the sports sector of the country and matters pertaining to the promotion of sports through the Authority.

Q: Can you describe how the Sugathadasa National Sports Complex Authority was established and its functions?

A: The Sugathadasa National Sports Complex Authority was set up under the Act No.17 of 1999, approved by the Cabinet. Its functions are to manage and maintain the Sugathadasa National Sports Complex while also safeguarding it because it is a national asset. Maintaining the sports facilities, buildings, structures and amenities pertaining to the Complex also comes under our management.

Most importantly, our aim is to make available the facilities of the Sugathadasa National Sports Complex to support the potential of sports to Sri Lankans, especially the youth, to improve their fitness and health. We are a non-profit, but service-oriented government organisation. Ours is not a venue for mega shows and entertainment events, but we may provide our indoor stadium for functions as long as the sports floor isn't affected.

Q: How does the Sugathadasa National Sports Complex Authority progress under the Government?

A: Today, with the support of Sports Minister Mahindananda Aluthgamage and with President Mahinda Rajapaksa's vision to promote and sustain sporting facilities under the Mahinda Chinthana, the Sugathadasa National Sports Complex Authority is managed well.

We have a Board of Directors where supervision from the Director General of the Sports Development Authority, the Secretary and Executive Committee officers only entails decisions that are taken.

We appreciate the efforts of Minister Aluthgamage as he looks into the finer details of sports and visits all sports stadia and complexes around the country to ensure that sports is promoted and facilities are available. He has a strong vision to make great sports personalities in our country with the provision of better facilities.

Q: What are the national sports complexes island-wide that come under the purview of the Sugathadasa National Sports Complex Authority?

A: In addition to the Sugathadasa National Sports Complex, we have the Bogambara Stadium and the Beliatta/Weeraketiya grounds and we have also obtained the management right of the Nuwara Eliya Race Course and Equestrian Grounds formerly managed by the Turf Club.

Staff strength

Q: What is your staff strength at the Sugathadasa National Sports Complex Authority?

A: In total, we have around 300 staff members working for us at Sugathadasa and around the country. At the Sugathadasa Stadium, we have 170 at the indoor stadium and 35 at the outdoor stadium. We have 60 at Bogambara, 11 at Beliatta/Weeraketiya and 60 at Nuwara Eliya. These are all full-time employees, but we contract many people to maintain the stadia and grounds which leads to a higher than specified number.

Q: Do you have professionals to maintain these stadia and grounds?

Brigadier Priyanka Samaratunge

A: Before I took over, the people here were demoralised. Nothing was happening at the Stadium except for a few sporting events and later, the IIFA. However, after the hype of this mega show, the popularity of the Stadium died and the employees weren't very motivated.

Now, we have managed to revive the welfare fund and offer scholarships for carpenters and tradesmen to obtained the NVQ (National Vocational Qualification) with the help of the Education Ministry. However, with the brain drain problem, we still have no proper experienced professionals even though they might have the basic qualifications. We are in need of more technically-oriented experts, engineers and tradesmen for the benefit of managing and maintaining the Stadia.

Q: What programs are in place to make the Sugathadasa National Sports Complex Authority beneficial to Sri Lankans?

A: Every stadium and complex in the country has its own programs in place with regard to promoting sports in the country. For example, we have started a sports program where we aim to teach 1,500 schoolchildren swimming at Beliatta/Weeraketiya with the help of our experts there for the first time.

Most importantly, when Minister Aluthgamage took over, he had a meeting with representatives of all 52 sports associations in the country. He appealed to them to provide the dates of their national sports meets so that we can reserve the stadium grounds for these dates. However, the feedback has been poor, but the doors of the stadia are always open to the National Sporting Associations so we ask them to approach us if they want us to book events.

In addition, we have opened the Sugathadasa Stadium car park for the benefit of patrons. Earlier, we got only a few lakhs from the profits of the car park, but with a proper management in place, we are now making about one million rupees.

Likewise, we are finding ways to make profits within the limited resources in a creative manner. We have also spoken to the Sri Lanka Sustainable Energy Authority about cutting costs by installing an energy-saving system at the Stadium. It might be a big investment at the beginning, but it's worthwhile in the long run with a cheaper electricity bill.

Pending contracts

Q: At present, there are three pending contracts at the Sugathadasa Stadium. They are the repair of the swimming pool and soccer grounds, the 400 metre re-tracking and the Stadium transformer rewiring. Will these projects be completed soon?

A: Earlier this year, only Rs. 2,129 million had been allocated for transformer rewiring; no funds had been allocated for the other projects. Today, we have awarded these projects to suitable contractors under a Government-approved system.

The re-laying of the synthetic 400 metre track with the repair of the soccer grounds amounts to Rs. 43,271 million. An amount of Rs. 14,463 million has been allocated to finish the repairs for the 50-metre diving and swimming pool. Another Rs. 2,424 million has been allocated to rewire the Stadium's transformer to ensure that electricity is maintained at an optimum.

Q: What about the refurbishment of the Sugathadasa hotel and installing better equipment at its gymnasium?

A: At present, the gymnasium has old equipment that we purchased about years 10 ago.

We have assessed and determined what new equipment we need by bringing the experts from the VIP gym at the Sports Ministry.

We hope to install new equipment soon and also give Sri Lankans membership at a better price instead of them spending money elsewhere.

The acre, on which the hotel is built, is not really in good condition. We are keen on a BOT agreement (build-operate-transfer) where we can improve the dormitory-style hotel into a three-star hotel so that if international participants want to train at the Stadium, they can come here instead of spending that money on five-star hotels.

Moreover, we want to have good facilities so that children from rural schools can come to Sugathadasa for a sports trip and stay and experience the facilities using an internationally-accredited sports grounds.

Q: What is the situation at Bogambara and do you have any future development plans?

A: The Bogambara Stadium is running at a loss at the moment. The daily expenditure amounts to about Rs. 20,000. So, even if we are to give the grounds to the Government for free, people need to realise that the overhead cost should be accounted for. Maintaining the Bogambara Stadium not an easy task.

When there is a heavy downpour, the grounds become flooded due to a sewerage canal running across it. In December last year, Bogambara experienced severe problems with massive flooding and the ground was badly damaged.

The Minister has taken up this issue at the Kandy District Development Committee meeting and the authorities at the Irrigation Department are looking into it. The good news is that Kandy residents can enjoy a fully-equipped state-of-the-art gymnasium with modern facilities by next year as we are currently refurbishing in place.

There are special memberships for students and adults which will also see Bogambara reaping profits next year.

N'Eliya Race Course

Q: What are your development plans for the newly-acquired Nuwara Eliya Race Course and Equestrian Grounds, formerly managed by the Turf Club?

A: It was a wise decision by the Sports Ministry to take over the management of the Nuwara Eliya Turf Club after a 100 years. The total extent of the property is 62 hectares which is in the midst of the cool climes of the hill country.

We have had a favourable response from the Australian government and the Australian Sports Commission to develop a high-altitude sports complex with all facilities.

In fact, the proposal was drawn up in 2001, but put a way suddenly. We still have the blueprints and proposed plans for the sports complexes which will be bigger and better than even the Sugathadasa Stadium. The Sports Ministry has looked into this matter and decided to restart this project for the benefit of sports island-wide.

Also, it would be a good way for our sporting personalities to experience a different climate so that they can adapt to the weather conditions of other countries. We also want to open it for a rally during the April season so that we can reap profits in other ways.

Q: As a non-profit organisation, how does the Sugathadasa National Sports Complex Authority manage its finances?

A: We have these small profit-making ventures on the side to make money at the Authority, but we have several organisations which are in debt. For example, the Board of Control for Cricket has to give the Authority about Rs. 26 million for using our facilities. We need Rs. 50 million from our debtors or else we can't function and maintain the Stadium for promoting sports in Sri Lanka.

People think that it's easy for us to provide concessionary rates but maintaining the air-conditioning and facilities at the complex and its branches is costly. We are committed to serving the people and promoting sports in the country, but we need support and understanding from all sides to make it through.


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