Greenfield Stadium in Karyavattom, Thiruvananthapuram, commonly known as the Sports Hub, is in the eye of a storm for conducting a mega stage show by Malayalam film artists.
The stadium was supposed to host an India-West Indies encounter later this year, but now it has been left battered and bruised after a stage show by the Association of Malayalam Movie Artists on May 6. A subsidiary of IL&FS Transportation Networks had built the stadium on a DBOT (design, built, operate and transfer) basis – the first of its kind in the country.
But IL&FS did little to preserve the turf at the stadium when it was given to a private channel to conduct the show. Contrary to claims by IL&FS officials, no event tiling was laid on the turf and the stage was erected on the grass, while support irons were put on boxes to minimize the damage. However, the plastic chairs for the audience were laid on the green turf without any protection. The event saw a capacity crowd of around 30,000.
It rained continuously for a few days, and cricket officials and fans who visited the stadium soon after the event found a mess at the stadium, including potholes and dry patches on the turf. They feared that the nine pitches at the centre of the ground would be damaged, though stadium officials claim they have taken precautions to cover them. Cricket officials also expressed concern about damage to the drainage system.
One of the few stadiums in the country to be constructed according to FIFA and ICC specifications, Greenfield Stadium successfully hosted an India-New Zealand T20 match last November, earning praise as it was able to host the match despite heavy rain. The sellout crowd, the excellent drainage facilities and lush green turf impressed India captain Virat Kohli, who wondered why the stadium was not a regular cricket venue.
The stadium was supposed to hold inter-district matches under the Kerala Cricket Association, but these were shifted out of Thiruvananthapuram to facilitate the show. Pictures of the stadium went viral on social media and put IL&FS on the defensive. The company said no damage was done to the turf.
IL&FS said the stadium will be ready within a week, but the venue is set to host a Sunny Leone show on May 26 – a three-hour dance marathon called the Indian Dance Biennale 2K18.
IL&FS has been accused of violating the terms of the lease agreement it signed with the Kerala government and the University of Kerala, which leased out 36 acres for the stadium, by using the premises for commercial purposes. The agreement stipulates that the stadium must be used only for sports activities. The company is also required to make the stadium available for 60 days a year for sports activities of the University of Kerala and the Kerala State Sports Council, but is yet to do so three years after completion of the facilities.
The University of Kerala senate has also raised concerns in the past about the selling of membership to the health club to the general public, saying this is against the terms of the agreement. The senate also had reservations about IL&FS leasing out space at the stadium for commercial purposes.
IL&FS officials said the firm is within its rights to use the stadium for commercial purposes.
According to the agreement, IL&FS will earn more than three times the amount it spend (roughly Rs166 crore) for constructing the stadium by the time it hands it over to the Kerala government after 15 years. The company also doesn't have to spend any money on maintaining the turf as KCA is bound to do so under the agreement.