Work in progress at the stadium . Picture by Prabin Khaling
Gangtok, Jan. 16: The work of laying an artificial turf at the Paljor Stadium has started and is expected to be ready by March.
Secretary of Sikkim sports and youth affairs department Karma P. Bhutia said the work of laying the turf started on January 1 and has been undertaken by a US-based firm that specialises in manufacturing artificial turf.
“I hope the turf will be laid by March 31 if there are no hindrances during the construction. Once it is laid, we can have a host of extensive football activities and other sporting events, which do not damage the surface. The turf will also add to the beauty of the stadium and make it capable of holding international standard matches,” Bhutia said.
The turf that costs Rs 3.77 crore will have a thickness of 65mm and is being laid by Fieldturf Tarkett and Great Sports Infra Private Limited.
According to Bhutia, the artificial turf will not require any maintenance for a minimum period of eight years after it is laid.
An amount of Rs 15 lakh is spent every year for the upkeep of the natural grass at the stadium, he added.
“The turf that is being laid is similar to the one at Salt Lake Stadium in Calcutta and the stadium in Goa. It is manufactured by a company in Georgia. The firm that has undertaken the project of laying the turf here had also laid the turfs in Calcutta and Goa. Salt Lake Stadium has already been given a two-star ranking by FIFA after the artificial turf was laid,” said Bhutia.
“Once the turf is ready, our players can practice on the ground six days a week. Other sports, which will not damage the pitch, like taekwondo and handball can also be played at the stadium. Players willing to practice at the stadium must get identity cards,” he said.
Currently, there is only one public playground in Gangtok where the players practice.
The artificial turf had been a pending demand of the soccer lovers here as the natural grass surface at the stadium had been deteriorating over the years.
“We are very happy. The artificial turf is the need of the hour because there are limited football grounds in Gangtok for our budding players to practice. There will be maximum utilisation of the turf at the stadium by the players,” said general secretary of the Sikkim Football Association, Menla Ethanpa.
“We have also requested the sports department to construct floodlights that will add more value to the stadium. We can host night football matches and tournaments because it is the present trend to host matches under floodlights. Sponsors and television channels are also interested in night matches because of enhanced viewership,” said Ethanpa.
He added that the artificial turf would also boost the appeal of the Governor’s Gold Cup tournament among the big clubs of the country.
The association has been organising the event for the past 32 years and is one of the premier football tourneys in the country.
“The artificial turf will help us convince the big clubs to participate in the Governor’s Gold Cup. The clubs will be interested in playing at the stadium because there is minimum risk of injuries for the players. The national football team can also organise acclimatisation training camps here,” said Ethanpa.