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Commercial opportunities at NMB Stadium precinct about to be released

Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium
Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium

The Mandela Bay Development Agency (MBDA) took over operations of the NMB Stadium in 2017 on a three-year mandate, with set financial and revenue targets from the Nelson Mandela Bay municipality.

Since the expiry of the temporary mandate, the city has not provided a clearer long-term mandate that would allow the MBDA to move quicker with precinct development and to capitalise on commercial opportunities, security of tenure and predictability — necessary ingredients for private sector participation.

Based on current engagements, the MBDA is forging ahead with these plans until advised otherwise.

It is critical to note that the bulk of the revenue of the stadium is generated from events in a lease operation.

However, our creative team also pursues other sources, such as revenue sharing, hospitality and advertising inventory sales.

The MBDA has already secured a long-term tenant to occupy level 5, the AIDC, which has been instrumental in bringing to the stadium large, high-value auto industry events.

The agency is also making headway with a revamped commercial plan and a stadium precinct development plan.

These plans seek to leverage all available inventory, including stands, suites, trade exchanges, naming rights, revenue-sharing initiatives, buying of high-value concerts, activating the bowl to establish retail (restaurants, commercial gyms, office space etc).

Our challenge is the short-term nature of the mandate from the municipality. It is constraining to plan long-term with a short-term management mandate.

Thanks to nearly 50 revenue-generating events in the past financial year, the stadium has seen a remarkable turnaround.

A total of 30 events were recorded in the past three months (October-December), the second quarter of the current financial year.

Collectively those 30 events brought 24,000 feet through the gates, generating R1.4m for the municipality. 

It is this growth in audience that the MBDA is aiming to capitalise on with renewed commercial and precinct development plans.

The commercial plan focuses on leveraging several assets within the mandate of the MBDA, the first being the World of Windows.

This 800-square metre area is perfectly suitable for a commercial restaurant initiative to capitalise on the growing foot fall through the gates. The space is situated in the west stand overlooking the scenic North End lake.

The lake precinct itself has received significant investor interest, with quality proposals being made since the MBDA took over.

More recently, our engagements with the Eastern Province Powerboat Club have raised the possibility of the lake precinct becoming a hub of entertainment relating to water sports in the form of regattas, canoeing, jet skiing and power boats, as well as lake tours.

From those engagements, 12 key challenges have been identified and prioritised.

The North End lake is currently identified as a site for a UIM World Championship Power Boats event due to take place in the Bay soon.

The stadium is now firmly set as the home of the biggest outdoor music festival in the province, Ebubeleni.

But we will not be complacent. We are already in the market for two other similar initiatives where the MBDA will take up equity to maximise revenue generation.

Simply renting out the venue is no longer going to be the only avenue going forward because the entity has in-house resources in the marketing, events, logistics and finance fields to put together a compelling package.

The MBDA recently entered a memorandum of understanding with the Eastern Cape Parks and Tourism Agency, with the aim of seeking joint initiatives that will ignite the tourism potential of the stadium precinct.

This can be done through the unique packaging of tourism offerings such as the newly built sports museum and activating the popular Stadium Roof Tours.

Much of the precinct plan will deal with surrounding business district improvement by building collaborative partnerships.

Early engagements with some North End businesses are likely to lead to a precinct charter aimed at improving the environmental aspects such as waste management, homelessness, crime prevention and other smart initiatives to secure businesses operating in the area and to safeguard job creation.

It is inescapable that urban regeneration is a multi-stakeholder process, each bringing to the table available human and other resources for the common good.

In the coming weeks the MBDA will consolidate all these initiatives towards a multi-stakeholder gathering for the North End precinct, details of which will be available on our website and social media channels.

We will use the public engagement platform to consolidate the inputs received in preparation for a series of calls for expressions of interest and request for proposals for interested parties.

We note that several entities have already contacted the agency with inspiring ideas that would transform the lakeside area into a world-class sport tourism node.

The MBDA will take those submissions that were shared with us into consideration and embark on a wider consultation process with stakeholders, not just around the stadium precinct, but with the broader metro community.

When I joined the MBDA at the end of June 2023, I made a commitment to hit the ground running, and already significant ground has been covered with long-stalled initiatives unblocked.

With an unqualified audit opinion for the past financial year, we are now set on achieving our mandate to turn around the NMB Stadium into a sustainable operation, generating significant income to lessen the burden on ratepayers.

Anele Qaba, MBDA CEO



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