No crowd, no cheer, no glory
RM104mil Batu Kawan state stadium a white elephant
NIBONG TEBAL: A billboard with the two official 2000 Sukma mascots, Bang Bayan and Chombee, is still perched on a lamppost outside the State Stadium in Batu Kawan. But nothing really happens inside it.
Although the RM104mil stadium was built 18 years ago with a capacity for 40,000 spectators, there’s no roar of football fans nor cheering crowd as it has become a white elephant since the 8th Sukma Games.
Apart from hosting meagre events and some premier league football matches, it is eerily quiet.
The faded paint makes the structure look older than it is. Its car park with 10,000 bays is now an empty tarmac.
Penang Youth and Sports Committee chairman Soon Lip Chee said after the 2000 Sukma Games, the state stadium was seldom used for big events as Batu Kawan was considered far from major towns.
“It is expensive to maintain yet a waste to leave it as a white elephant.
“We will use the stadium to benefit the people and drive the local economy here as Batu Kawan will soon see many developments,” Soon told The Star after a visit to the stadium recently.
He hoped the state government would hold some major events at the Batu Kawan stadium to avoid traffic congestion on Penang island.
“Sporting events can also be held – it has a running track for athletes,” he said.
Built by the Penang Development Corporation (PDC), the stadium was later handed over to the Seberang Prai Municipal Council to be maintained.
Between 2012 and 2013, the Penang Sports Council took over its management but the PDC assumed the role in May 2014.
The annual maintenance of the stadium is about RM1.2mil.
PDC promotions executive Wan Nur Izah Wan Nordin said after taking back the stadium four years ago, the corporation discovered that the stadium needed a lot of repairs. So, it was closed down for 18 months.
“We spent RM1.89mil to repair the railings, the lighting, goal posts, air-conditioning and to renovate the toilets and food stalls.
“An additional RM300,300 was spent to repair the irrigation system, replant the grass and another RM678,320 to repair the scoreboard, sound reinforcement system, floodlights and speakers.
“With all the upgrading, we got the football field certified by the Fédération Internationale de Football Association (FIFA) last year.
“There are only two FIFA-certified football stadiums in the country, the other being the Bukit Jalil National Stadium in Kuala Lumpur,” she said, adding that the PDC only generated about RM600,000 from rentals and its facilities a year.
“The electricity to power up the floodlights alone costs up to RM15,000 monthly,” said Wan Nur Izah.
“And we cannot simply rent out the football field to anybody as we need to upkeep the field to FIFA standards,” she said.
Wan Nur Izah said the stadium was closed last year as it was reserved by the Football Association Penang. It has since reopened.
“We are planning to hold a concert at the end of this year as the stadium has hosted several other non-football-related events such as the Jom Heboh carnival, as well as Toyota Gazoo and Petronas Club Prix races.”
According to www.pdc.gov.my website, the cost to rent the stadium for a day is between RM8,000 and RM15,000.
Time capsule: Motorcyclists riding past the 2000 Sukma board featuring the mascots of that event near the entrance of the stadium in Batu Kawan.