|A worker cleans the coveted seats at Astroturf Hockey Stadium in Morabadi, Ranchi, on Thursday and (above) the high-mast lights that need urgent repairs. Pictures by Hardeep Singh
Another season of high-octane hockey. And another season of hopeless heartache.
A giant half of Jharkhand will once again be deprived of the kick of watching the charge of the Rhinos live because the state sports department hasn’t been able to move a proposal on augmenting stadium capacity by 50 per cent from the survey stage to the drawing board in six months.
Like the first edition, only 5,500 lucky spectators will find seats at the much-touted Astroturf complex in Morabadi when the second season of Hockey India League (HIL) — with a sizzling sixth team perhaps under the patronage of Chak De! India man Shah Rukh ‘Kabir’ Khan — gets underway from January 23.
The rest can curse their luck, watch the ties — at least six of them to be hosted in the capital — on TV, wait for another screen consolation like last time or buy the state’s promise of making things happen by a third season of HIL!
According to department officials, after the proposal to increase the capacity of the stadium was mooted in April in the wake of the heavy rush during HIL 1 this January-February, a team of engineers conducted a field survey the same month.
“The plan was to make use of unutilised space. Also, proposal had been mooted to erect pillars for additional galleries. The seating capacity would have increased by 2,000 or so,” said a department official.
Vandana Dadel, secretary (sports and youth affairs), confirmed that the plan to add more galleries would fall through for want of time.
“The estimate for the new project is still under preparation. I have asked department officials to submit the same soon. However, we cannot increase the capacity of the Morabadi stadium before HIL 2 even if we rush now,” she conceded. “Additional galleries will surely come up (and hopefully before the next league),” she stressed.
The first edition of HIL, held between January 14 and February 10, 2013, had seen five teams — Delhi Waveriders, Mumbai Magicians, Punjab Warriors, Uttar Pradesh Wizards and Ranchi Rhinos — in lightning-fast stick action.
Ranchi had received 10 matches, including semi-finals and the grand finale. Initially, the crowd count was modest, but as the Rhinos started goring rivals, successive matches witnessed huge turnout. The stadium had little elbowroom when the Rhinos defeated the Waveriders 2-1 in a nail-biting final.
In fact, such was the craze, that organisers had to arrange for a live telecast of the match on a giant screen at Birsa Munda Football Stadium, 100 metres from the Astroturf facility, for fans who missed out on tickets. And, that is when the idea of more galleries was conceived.
Apart from the seat let-down, hockey lovers may also have to bear with high-mast lights on the blink in Season 2 though sports officials promise otherwise.
“During a match in the last league, bulbs in two high-mast lights had not worked, causing delay. There is snag in the lights that needs urgent repair before the HIL 2 commences,” an official of Hockey Jharkhand said.
Sports director Ashok Kumar said he had been apprised of the problem. “The matches are in January and we will fix everything before that,” said Kumar.
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