A DELEGATION from the Bulawayo City Council recently embarked on a tour of several stadia in the country as the local authority works on implementing plans to upgrade the city’s largest stadium, Barbourfields to ensure it meets Confederation of African Football (CAF) standards of hosting international football matches.
Barbourfields Stadium, fondly known as “Emagumeni” by passionate football fans, has long been revered as the heart and soul of Bulawayo’s sporting legacy. With its rich history and iconic status, the stadium has witnessed countless exhilarating moments, leaving an indelible mark on the city’s sporting heritage.However, as the demands of modern football evolve, the need for comprehensive upgrades has become evident.
The look and learn visit took the delegation that included, the assistant director of housing and community services (team leader), Zakeu Sibanda, principal building officer (project manager), Thembinkosi Ncube, the project architect, quantity surveyor, procurement specialist, finance specialist, and the project electrical engineer, to Ngezi’s Baobab stadium, Rufaro stadium, the National Sports Stadium, and the PHD Ministries-owned Heart stadium.
“The Director of Housing and Community Services, Dictor Khumalo on behalf of the Council had extended appreciation to the various stakeholders who assisted in ensuring the success of the look-and-learn visit. It was indeed a fruitful excursion in which experience would be used for the benefit of the council and residents.“
The officers would like to extend their heartfelt gratitude for the opportunity to go out there and represent the council. A lot that was learnt report would be implemented and some lessons used to influence policy positively. Follow-ups would be done accordingly,” reads a council report on the visit.
The BCC officials, embarked on this stadium tour as a means to gather valuable insights and inspiration from other stadiums across the country, with the tour not only focusing on the physical aspects of stadium upgrades but also delving into the operational and logistical aspects that contribute to a seamless sporting experience.From state-of-the-art pitch maintenance techniques to cutting-edge audiovisual technology, every facet of stadium management was examined with meticulous attention to detail.
“At Baobab, the stadium had well-constructed ticketing booths, complete with automated turnstiles that had a manual override system. This setup partially fulfilled the CAF requirements for stadium access. The touring team engaged the stadium management in the function and procurement of the automated turnstiles and documented the same.
“The Stadium had a LED Live Screen which modernised the spectator experience, partially fulfilled the CAF Stadium requirements as well as benchmarked the stadium in light of changes that were happening in the sporting fraternity such as the Video Assisted Referee in soccer. The major lesson was to try and remain relevant and ahead of the changes taking place in Sport as it was quite dynamic,” reads the report.The delegation also noted that Baobab stadium had simple yet well-finished Changing Rooms, which met CAF specifications.
“The stadium also had an on-site Gym, which was very well equipped. Such facilities added to the value of the Stadium and may also have been revenue generators as a high-quality Gym Facility may be attractive to Teams as well as paying Public and club members.
“A creative mixed zone tunnel was used at Baobab Stadium, being a framed structure with transparent Perspex cover. The structure retracted on rails and its overall construction was robust, to protect the Players, whilst also being transparent and avoiding obstruction of any views. This was an innovation that could easily be replicated at BCC Stadia,” reads the report.
At the National Sports Stadium, the delegation especially noted the multi-purpose of the stadium as well as the media centre and medical rooms which all met CAF requirements.
“The Medical Facilities at the Stadium were well equipped, as per the CAF requirements, having essential Medical Drugs and Medical Equipment. These essentially were fully fledged mini medical facilities in a simple set-up that could also be modelled at the BCC Stadia.
“The Stadium had purpose-built broadcast rooms that could house modern broadcast equipment, having sound-proofed booths with power and internet connection points. Considering complementary activities at the facility that appealed to sports fans as a means of generating revenue and sustaining the facility. An example was sports betting establishment as part of activities taking place at the facility,” reads the report.
“Further, engagement with private players and other recreation bodies may have revealed additional opportunities as witnessed by the establishment of a Go-Kart racing circuit at the facility. This provided lease income as well as recreation options for the public.”
The major take-home by the delegation at Rufaro stadium was the possibility of getting revenue through parking during major games at the stadia.
“The stadium had a very modern Parking Lot that was developed, financed, and was due to be managed by the City Parking Management Company. It would be a business on its own, rendering secure park-and-ride into the city during the week or when there were no football matches or events at the facility. This was a commendable innovation which may have been explored for feasibility with some of our facilities,” reads the report.
At the Heart stadium, the delegation noted that the pitch drainage was comprehensively constructed, revealing that it was deemed to be the best-constructed pitch drainage in the country.
“The stadium had CAF compliant Dug outs, which provided eye-level observation of the game by Teams in the dug-outs. This was a feasible feature that could be implemented by the City of Bulawayo.
“The Changing Rooms were of International Standard in terms of fittings and quality of finishes. This was the standard that must be pursued by the City of Bulawayo. The execution of the high level and high-quality construction was aided by simple procurement processes and readily available resources for the project, which was usually a limiting factor for City of Bulawayo construction projects,” reads the report.
After the look-and-learn visit, the local authority has since committed that, pending the availability of funds, will this year embark on the introduction of an updated irrigation system at BF, phased upgrading of public toilets, phased upgrading of floodlights to LED fittings, phased fit-out of media tribune, phased re-development of the changing rooms, the introduction of a digital scoreboard and live screen, and fitting out of the first aid and medical rooms.