Sri Lanka Cricket President Shammi Silva said that building a new cricket stadium in Homagama would help the country to gain rights to host the ICC 50-over World Cup in 2027 and the ICC World T20 in 2030 for which they have already made a bid for.
“When countries bid to host international events the ICC looks for bigger grounds. We have already bid for the 2027 and 2030 Fifty Overs World Cup and World T20 tournaments. We have only four grounds and this will be the fifth if we are doing it,” Silva told the Daily News.
“If you take Australia, India and England automatically they will get selected because they have more grounds and they have more facilities. Even Bangladesh are at the moment building an 80,000 seat stadium,” he said.
“If you are going to bid at international level, future expansion and everything, we have to go for a bigger place. In time to come the real estate market also will be high and we will not get anything. This is the only area available. It is an easily accessible place compared to any other. From anywhere in Sri Lanka except Jaffna within two hours you can travel to this stadium which is one or two kilometres from the highway.”
The proposed international cricket stadium at Homagama with a seating capacity of 60,000 will easily become the largest to be built in the country surpassing that of the R Premadasa Stadium and the Mahinda Rajapaksa Stadium in Sooriyawewa, Hambantota, each of which can hold up to 35,000 spectators.
“We will play cricket at the R Premadasa Stadium as well but it is not enough to accommodate spectators and for training. We also need another centre because from here to Sooriyawewa, and to Pallekele or to Dambulla in between there is nothing,” said Silva.
Giving further reasons for the need of such a large stadium, Silva explained that the Khettarama Stadium (or R Premadasa Stadium) was built in 1986 and after over 30 years they were finding it difficult to accommodate a proper crowd.
“Former President R Premadasa had thought of that a long time back and 25 years ahead he had done it. When Khettarama was built it was the second floodlit stadium in the world after the MCG (Melbourne Cricket Ground). But looking ahead we have to expand because the spectator demand has increased. During international matches there are about 5,000 to 10,000 spectators shut out because the stadium cannot accommodate them,” pointed out Silva. “In the past 5000-6000 people came so we were able to accommodate them, but now 40,000 to 50,000 people want to watch cricket.”
VENUE FOR TRAINING/PRACTICE
Elaborating further Silva said the stadium would enable several first-class cricket clubs who are without grounds to make use of the facilities for training and practices.
“If you take the population Homagama, Kesbewa, Maharagama, Piliyandala and Kaduwela they are well populated areas and there is no place for players to come and train and practice,” said Silva.
“At the same time you take clubs like Ragama CC, Negombo CC, Lankan CC, Nugegoda S&WC, Kalutara TC they don’t have a ground. But within half an hour to one hour they can travel to this stadium. They can all come and train there. So many clubs will benefit,” he said.
“If you speak to the first-class clubs they have no place to go and practice and play, most of them come to Thurstan grounds where there is not much in the way of facilities. We have to look after the cricketing fraternity.
“We are playing so much of cricket right throughout the year we don’t have the grounds to play matches. I saw some person has said about improving Moratuwa Stadium and Asgiriya Stadium. You cannot convert them into international venues because you cannot accommodate even 20,000 people. They are only first-class venues.”
FINANCED BY SLC
Silva said that the project which will cost around US$30-40 million will be financed entirely by Sri Lanka Cricket. No government funds will be utilized for the project.
“Money for this project will be taken solely from bank loans. We have not thought of channelling any money given to us by the ICC. We have not asked for any loans from the ICC,” said Silva.
“We are thinking of taking a bank loan of US$2million a year and cover it in 20 years. We are doing the evaluation and it will cost about US$30-40 million to construct it. We are hoping to finish it by 2023.”
“We have still not got the land. We have to get it under Sri Lanka Cricket, after that only we will be able to start work. It will take another 4-6 months to start. It will be owned by Sri Lanka Cricket 100 per cent. At the moment we own two stadiums at Sooriyawewa and at Pallekele. The Dambulla stadium is owned by the temple and they have leased it to us and Khettarama is owned by the Sports Ministry and also leased to us,” he said.
Silva said that this project was in the pipeline since 2016 but due to some problems with the land there were delays.
Past cricket captains have been critical of this project questioning the need for another stadium when many were already in existence.
“I cannot talk on behalf of past cricketers they don’t know what is happening. Most of the past cricketers are not involved with Sri Lanka Cricket administration and they don’t know what is happening. They think that we are playing cricket only for 65 days a year,” said Silva.
“Even our administration part of it we want to take it to Homagama. Only a few offices will be operating from Maitland Place because at the moment we don’t have space,” he said.