Salt Lake stadium goes Cup class

Grass imported from the US, two new full-sized practice grounds with floodlights, rooms for referees and ball boys, new gates, wider roads, even a helipad — Salt Lake stadium is in the middle of a Rs 52-crore makeover for the FIFA Under-17 World Cup that it will co-host with five other venues next year. India’s largest amphitheatre of sport aims to be ready for its biggest event at least 11 months before the September 2017 kick-off. “Construction will be completed by October, after which FIFA representatives are scheduled to carry out an inspection. That will leave us with enough time to incorporate any changes that they suggest,” sports, public works and youth services minister Aroop Biswas said after a review meeting. Metro steps into the stadium to find several new features and a few striking improvements since it was closed for renovation last January

  • Published 10.09.16
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Grass imported from the US, two new full-sized practice grounds with floodlights, rooms for referees and ball boys, new gates, wider roads, even a helipad — Salt Lake stadium is in the middle of a Rs 52-crore makeover for the FIFA Under-17 World Cup that it will co-host with five other venues next year. India’s largest amphitheatre of sport aims to be ready for its biggest event at least 11 months before the September 2017 kick-off. “Construction will be completed by October, after which FIFA representatives are scheduled to carry out an inspection. That will leave us with enough time to incorporate any changes that they suggest,” sports, public works and youth services minister Aroop Biswas said after a review meeting. Metro steps into the stadium to find several new features and a few striking improvements since it was closed for renovation last January.

Lush pitch: 

The stadium has complied with FIFA’s directive to replace the four-year-old AstroTurf with a carpet of natural grass.

Reveria Bermuda grass, which is native to the US, has been sown across the ground and the lushness of the playing turf is in stark contrast to the old surface.

The shift from AstroTurf to natural grass has cost the government Rs 5.7 crore and reports suggest that the gains have been worth the investment. The new turf has so far hosted a Mohun Bagan-East Bengal derby and Atletico de Kolkata’s home matches in the second season of the Indian Super League, all of them last year. Footballers found the surface soft, smooth and generally player-friendly. 

“There was just one problem. Sometimes, grass would come off when the boots grazed the surface while kicking the ball or making a sliding tackle. But that was because the roots weren’t long enough then. The roots have penetrated deeper into the surface since then and the grass is now a carpet,” said an employee of Sports Turf and Golf Enterprises, the company contracted to maintain the ground.

Top-class track: 

German company Porplastic has stacked drums (picture left) containing elastic coating for the running track, which is being replaced for the first time since the stadium was built in 1984. The old track has been scooped out (picture below) and the new surface would be laid after the monsoon ends, officials said. 

The budget for the track is Rs 6 crore, although this part of the makeover project has little to do with the Under-17 World Cup.

Snazzier look:

The lobby of the VIP entrance that leads to the players’ arena is being air-conditioned. The broadcast rooms and stadium offices are also getting a snazzier look.

According to sources in the PWD, the facade of the stadium beyond Swami Vivekananda’s statue (picture above) would protrude a bit and two giant television screens would be set up on either side of the main entrance.

Bucket seats:

The concrete benches in the galleries are being replaced with bucket seats. The flip side of comfort is that the capacity of the stadium would drop drastically from 1,10,000 to 84,000, which means Yuva Bharati Krirangan would lose pride of place among the largest stadiums in the world in terms of seating.

The new seats are all light blue in colour (picture above). But the middle tiers of the gallery opposite the press box, which already had chairs in a deeper shade of blue, is proving to be bit of an eyesore.

While there is no plan to replace these seats to give the stadium a uniform look, the authorities are considering other options to make the old bucket seats “look better”.  

Larger VIP and press boxes: 

The VIP and press boxes, both in the middle tier, are being pulled down. A new press box with a capacity of 240  seats will be on the third tier. The VIP box would remain part of the second tier, but there is a plan to stretch these rows and add another 240 seats.

Before the makeover, both boxes would accommodate 60 people each.

“The two sections would now look similar from outside and be located at the centre of their respective levels, one above the other, to maintain symmetry,” said a PWD engineer overseeing the construction. 
FIFA has asked the stadium authorities to be prepared for a 200-strong media contingent  from abroad for every game.

Practice grounds: 

Two full-sized practice grounds with perforations on the surface for  underground drainage and eight floodlight towers have come up at the Hyatt end of the stadium, as recommended by FIFA.

The same imported Reveria Bermuda grass used on the main turf will cover the practice grounds. The drainage network has been designed to ensure that the surface never becomes slushy. 

The referees’ rooms are being built alongside the practice grounds. 

FIFA has asked for view cutters to be placed around both grounds because the competing teams would prefer to keep their match tactics under wraps.

An unused plot near the practice grounds has been identified for a helipad. FIFA bosses are expected to arrive for the matches by helicopter, said Jyotisman Chatterjee, CEO, Salt Lake stadium. 
If and when the plan is implemented, the stadium will become one of the few sporting venues in the world to have a helipad.

Sources said each practice ground was being readied at an estimated cost of Rs 5 crore. 

Extra gates: 

The number of gates to the stadium are being increased from seven to nine. Some of the existing gates are being widened too, as are the approaches that connect the entrances and exits to the ring road. Each link road would be 21 metres wide.

“There will be a lane in the middle of each link road for ambulances and  walkways on either side,” CEO Chatterjee said.

A high-tension electricity line has been relaid and new street lamps have been planned along the ring road.
The surroundings would be beautified by the forest department, which is currently clearing the vegetation between the ramps of the stadium.
Only cars with passes would be allowed to enter the stadium. Entry would be through the VIP Gate on the Bypass. For the rest, parking places would be made available around Subhash Sarovar and the area near the playground of Jadavpur University’s Salt  Lake campus. 

Assorted changes:

To the left of the lobby, rooms are coming up for referees and ball boys.

The press conference room that used to be cramped during derbies and matches featuring international teams would shift to a 19 x 8.5-metre space under a gallery. A spacious broadcast room of similar dimensions is being 
built as well. 

Some structures, including unplanned shops and staff quarters, would be pulled down. “The drive has started. Some of the encroachments have already been demolished,” the sports and PWD minister said.

Reporting by Rith Basu
Pictures by Amit Datta

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