Galle stadium to be reconstructed soon

Published: Friday, April 22, 2005, 23:53 [IST]
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Galle:Sri Lankan cricket officials have confirmed that the Galle International Stadium that was destroyed by last December's tsunami will be rebuilt.

The assurance ended fears that one of the world's most picturesque sports venues would be lost forever, mainly because of safety concerns in the event of another natural disaster.

"We are definitely going to be rebuilding the stadium and are now just waiting for the government's approval," ground manager Jayananda Warnaweera said on Friday.

"There are still a lot of homeless people living here in tents and schools and it's not fair to start reconstruction now," he added. "Hopefully, we will start in about six month's time."

In the immediate aftermath of the December 26 disaster, cricket officials claimed that the venue's future was in doubt because the safety of players and spectators could not be guaranteed.

The cricket Board was also wary about investing substantial financial resources into the stadium when there was a theoretical chance that flood waters could return.

However, that initial decision led to widespread condemnation and Warnaweera received a fair amount of criticism from the local community.

"If the stadium is not restored the entire Galle public will turn against us," Warnaweera added. "There have been accusing fingers pointed at us for not starting work already."

Despite the positive news, the international future of the ground remains uncertain as officials have yet to decide whether to proceed with alternate plans for a completely new stadium just outside Galle.

The Board has identified a plot of land in a village called Habaraduwaa for a stadium that could be fully-owned, unlike in Galle which is leased, and less constrained by planning restrictions.

The original stadium was destroyed by a series of huge waves that engulfed the region.

The main spectator stand, outdoor practice nets, indoor training centre, perimeter fencing, as well the main playing square and outfield, were all ruined in the disaster.

However, Warnaweera predicted that only about $500,000 would be required for basic renovation work that included removing 10 centimetres of topsoil across the entire outfield.

The full re-fit complete with a modern drainage and sprinkler system, plus dressing rooms, a main pavilion, scoreboard and media centre would cost up to $2 million.

"We can bring the stadium up to an acceptable international standard quite easily because there are no big costs involved," said Warnaweera.

Sri Lanka Cricket (SLC) has already been pledged $25,000 from the Marylebone Cricket Club (MCC) in England and Australia's Shane Warne, who took his 500th Test wicket at the venue last year, has also pledged money.

The venue staged its inaugural Test in 1998 and has held 11 matches.

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