Big boost for Bay’s shameful stadiums

THE Nelson Mandela Bay Municipality will pump more than R100million into improving the Bay’s sports fields, stadiums, pools and indoor centres.

The counsel approved some R102.6million for this purpose, almost nine times last year’s amount.

Last year, it was a meagre R11 883 420.

The funding could not have come at a better time for soccer, rugby, cricket and hockey organisations, clubs and players in the Bay, who have for a long time griped about their facilities falling into disrepair following years of neglect, vandalism, theft and funding crises.

THE Nelson Mandela Bay Municipality will pump more than R100million into improving the Bay’s sports fields, stadiums, pools and indoor centres.

The provincial Department of Sports, Recreation, Arts and Culture’s approved 2015-16 budget of R102.6million for the metro, is almost nine times last year’s amount.

Last year, it was a meagre R11 883 420.

The funding could not have come at a better time for soccer, rugby, cricket and hockey organisations, clubs and players in the Bay, who have for a long time griped about their facilities falling into disrepair following years of neglect, vandalism, theft and funding crises.

A Herald team visited 25 stadiums in the metro and found broken cricket nets which served no purpose, fields so overgrown they hide potential ankle-fracturing holes, players forced to practice on exposed clay or rock, and some clubhouses being used by vagrants for their ablutions.

Biokineticist Samantha Kahtz, Proteas cricketer Alviro Petersen and the municipality all agreed that the steady decline in the state of the Bay’s sporting facilities – mainly in the poorer areas – has resulted in an increase in idle youths turning to drugs, alcohol and crime.

Kahtz, who is working on her PhD at NMMU, focusing on the importance of physical education particularly in rural areas and schools, said the youth in these areas were not getting the chance to appreciate the importance of sport.

“Sport gives them something to work towards – a sense of pride,” she said.

“My research shows that a positive environment is inspiring in general. Aesthetically appealing facilities could improve attitudes towards sport and, in turn, schoolwork.

“Sport can facilitate not only healthy lifestyles, but social skills as well.

“A lack of facilities, coaches and programmes result in them [the youth] never really attaining or developing these skills.

“Looking at statistics, the general level of sports activity in South Africa is nowhere near where it should be in terms of rich or poor youth,” she said.

Safa Nelson Mandela Bay president Monde Mhletywa said: “Players cannot deliver what they have been taught when the facility is in such a bad state.

“Our facilities are an injury-inflicting area, more so than the attack you get from the opposition [players].”

At the Helenvale, Khayamnandi, Windvogel and Rosedale fields, several sporting codes are forced to use the same fields, with gaping potholes the result of overuse of the fields.

“Lease agreements with LFAs [local football authorities] is the best way to ensure facilities are maintained and money is saved.

“Tenders for field maintenance do not help us either. If fields are leased to users such as LFAs this will mean they are responsible for ensuring the fields are not overused as they are directly affected,” Mhletywa said.”

Port Elizabeth Metro EP Rugby sub-union facilities director Andre Gerber recently carried out inspections of rugby fields in the city and sent e-mails to the municipality regarding the problems that were found.

“The standard answer I receive is that there is no money in the budget,” he said.

“I am in the process of getting quotations from private contractors so I can submit a budget to the union as soon as possible.

“The main priority is to get the playing areas in a playable condition,” he said.

Eastern Province Hockey governance and facilities director Colin Abrahams and his son, Clyde, a former South African hockey player, agreed with him.

Clyde said the lack of facilities often led to quarrels between the clubs for prime training slots instead of them working together to develop the game.

He said more youngsters would be attracted to sports if the facilities were improved.

“There just aren’t enough slots at the [astro] turf to spend time training the youth. We need another turf,” Clyde said.

About a decade ago, the National Lottery Fund built the KwaNobuhle astroturf to accommodate the growing interest in hockey in the region.

It was a hub of sporting activity, regularly hosting touring Sports grounds visited in Port Elizabeth: Malabar sports fields in Malabar; Moordyke sports fields in Schauderville; NU2, NU1, NU9, NU8, NU11 sports fields, all in Motherwell; Isaac Wolfson Stadium in Zwide; Walmer sports fields in Walmer; Booysen Park sports fields in Booysen Park; Wells Estate sport fields in Wells Estate; Finnis Street sport fields in Bethelsdorp; Gelvandale sports fields in Gelvandale; Helenvale sports fields , Helenvale; Mzontsundu sports fields in Zwide; Windvogel sports fields in Windvogel, and Zwide Stadium. Sports grounds visited in Uitenhage and Despatch: Jabavu Stadium in KwaNobuhle; Thembani Stadium in KwaLanga; Jubilee Park Stadium; Mqolombo Park in KwaNobuhle; Rocklands sport fields in Rocklands; Central Sports Grounds; Rosedale sports fields in Rosedale, and Khayamnandi sports grounds in Despatch. schools and clubs, and formed the basis of Uitenhage hockey.

Today, it is little more than a carpet of weeds and sand.

“We can’t develop hockey in the poorer areas if there are no facilities,” Colin said.

“One can’t place a turf outside town and expect it to remain intact. No proper planning took place. We need a blueprint for sport in the city.”

The Gelvandale astroturf, located within the Gelvandale sports fields, is also in desperate need of maintenance.

Gelvandale Cricket Club president Gary Dolley said: “It is unacceptable that the metro spent more than R10-million on development of these grounds and you can’t see any of it in cricket.

“Role-players need to ensure the safety of the facility and establish a maintenance plan.

“We have had several cases of vandalism and cable theft at these grounds, and it is not only here – look at the Finnis Street Stadium. The municipality needs to secure its assets in the city,” Dolley said.

Petersen, who hails from the northern areas, said the community should also take joint responsibility for the facilities.

“We know the challenges facing the youth in the northern areas, and its about giving them an alternative,” he said.

“Sport … can heal the divides, heal communities and give hope to those seeking a brighter future,” Petersen said.

Municipal spokesman Mthubanzi Mniki said they were aware of the situation facing the city’s sports facilities.

He said they were placing a lot of focus on sport by putting youth development under the banner of sport, arts, recreation and culture, and ensuring that a much bigger budget was allocated.

“Maintenance [of sports facilities] is done on a regular basis, as and when required.

“There is not always sufficient time to do proper rehabilitation of the fields due to the over-utilisation of facilities.

“We are in the process of establishing facility management committees from among all the users and stakeholders around specific facilities.

“At some facilities, we have placed security guards, which becomes too costly to sustain.

“Preferably the sport clubs and community should take ownership of the facilities delivered by the municipality,” Mniki said.

-Tremaine van Aardt, additional reporting by Jayson Austin-Day and Siphokuhle Mkancu

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