By George Katongole
In a groundbreaking endeavor, young Ugandan businessman Hamis Kiggundu is revolutionising the sports landscape by reconstructing Nakivubo Stadium to meet international standards.
With an investment of $200 million, Kiggundu’s vision goes beyond profitability; it aims to inspire a new era of prosperity and community development through sports.
Nakivubo Stadium’s estimated cost places in an esteemed league, standing just below the likes of Estadio 11 de Novembro in Angola ($227m), Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium in South Africa ($270m), and other iconic venues.
Nakivubo Stadium has a rich history dating back to its establishment in the 1920s. It was constructed in 1922 by the British colonial administration in Uganda. It was originally built as a venue for European sports, particularly football.
The stadium’s name, “Nakivubo,” comes from the Luganda word “ekivubo,” which means “pit” or “hole,” referring to the swampy area where the stadium was built.
Throughout its history, Nakivubo Stadium has been a significant venue for various sporting events, especially football matches. It has been the home ground for several Ugandan football clubs, including Express FC and SC Villa and the national team. The stadium has also hosted international matches and tournaments. The stadium has also hosted other events, such as music concerts and political rallies.
Over the years, the stadium underwent several renovations and expansions to improve its facilities and accommodate larger crowds. In 1954, floodlights were installed, allowing evening matches to be played. In the 1960s, the stadium was expanded to increase its seating capacity.
In recent years, Nakivubo Stadium faced numerous challenges, including inadequate maintenance, limited infrastructure, and concerns over safety and security. These issues led to a gradual decline in the stadium’s condition. In 2017, the stadium was closed for renovation and redevelopment.
Following the closure, the government of Uganda, in collaboration with city property mogul Kiggundu, initiated a redevelopment plan for Nakivubo Stadium. The goal is to transform the stadium into a modern sports complex with upgraded facilities and improved infrastructure.
Under the agreement, Ham Enterprises Group committed to investing significant resources in the project. The plan included the construction of a new 30-000-seater stadium, a shopping mall, hotels, apartments, and other amenities within the stadium complex. The redevelopment project was expected to take several years to complete.
Kiggundu’s motivation for such a sports project stems from his deep-rooted love for sports. Having played football during his school days and continuing to engage in the sport, he recognizes the commercial potential of football and views it as an excellent investment opportunity.
The youth-dominated population of Uganda, with almost 80% below the age of 35, further bolsters Kiggundu’s belief in the value of investing in sports facilities that cater to the young, energetic, and productive sports enthusiasts of the nation.
His vision encompasses not only the construction of a 30,000-seater stadium but also the cultivation of a thriving sports community that nurtures young talent.
His resolute focus on meeting international standards underscores his determination to create a stadium that is not only visually stunning but also fully compliant with FIFA’s requirements.
“Doubts can only be cured by reason and reality. Yes, people are entitled to their opinion, but for as long as you know what you are doing, it’s best to keep focused and ensure you achieve what you want. I can’t invest $200 million in a stadium simply to have a stadium that can’t be approved by FIFA. I am actually following the guidance of FIFA.”
In the era of rapid technological advancement, stadiums worldwide are embracing cutting-edge technologies to revolutionise the way fans experience live sports events.
According to Kiggundu, these advancements will significantly enhance the fan experience through seamless connectivity, allowing spectators to share their real-time experiences effortlessly.
Furthermore, a state-of-the-art video board will be installed at the southern gate, offering crystal-clear replays that create an immersive atmosphere. This spectacle will undoubtedly elevate the overall experience for spectators, ensuring they don’t miss any crucial moments.
In addition to these advancements, personalised experiences will be a key focus, particularly in the executive and VIP boxes. Through innovative systems, fans will have the convenience of ordering concessions from their seats, eliminating long queues and enabling them to fully immerse themselves in the action without any interruptions.
Safety and security remain paramount concerns for the stadium project. Kiggundu emphasises the implementation of enhanced safety measures, including state-of-the-art surveillance cameras and crowd monitoring systems. These systems will provide spectators with a sense of peace and security, allowing them to enjoy the game without any worries.
With these innovations in place, the stadium aims to set new standards for entertainment, engagement, and spectator satisfaction.
An eco-Friendly oasis
Kiggundu’s dedication to preserving the environment is evident in his sustainable approach to stadium construction. The stadium’s drainage system utilises the Nakivubo channel, minimizing its impact on the environment. Furthermore, the stadium’s design incorporates power-efficient lighting, minimal water usage, and the strategic planting of trees, making it a shining example of eco-friendly infrastructure.
A venue for social interaction
Beyond the sporting aspects, Nakivubo Stadium holds the potential to become a social and cultural hub for the local community. Located in the central business area, the stadium will provide a space for people to socialise and foster a sense of community pride.
Kiggundu passionately expresses, “In the heart of the central business area, we lack a stadium that fosters socialization. It extends beyond sports; it’s about cultivating a vibrant social atmosphere.”
The ambitious project is not only about transforming sports infrastructure but also generating employment opportunities for the local community.
Despite the stadium’s automation, a substantial workforce will be employed in various roles, such as management, security, and maintenance.
By spearheading this transformative project, Kiggundu hopes to be recognised as a trailblazer in the realm of social-economic development.
The stadium reconstruction has often faced skepticism but he remains optimistic that the completion will be met with widespread enthusiasm.
He candidly reflects on societal attitudes, stating, “It is both disheartening and amusing that our society, by nature, tends to have a slightly negative outlook. They hesitate to embrace prosperity and projects until they are physically experiencing them. However, I am confident that once the stadium is fully completed, the collective joy and satisfaction will be overwhelming. Fortunately, there is already a portion of Ugandans who are genuinely excited about the project.”
Recognising the communal nature of stadiums, Kiggundu emphasises the importance of societal recognition and appreciation for individuals who invest in projects that contribute to social and economic transformation.
By relying on private financing and refusing to succumb to external pressures, Kiggundu asserts his autonomy and determination to achieve his vision within his means.
Taking his time to ensure quality and avoid financial burdens, Kiggundu demonstrates the importance of a measured approach to success. His commitment to dreaming big and accomplishing goals resonates throughout his endeavors.
Kiggundu confidently states, “I have chosen to finance the project privately because I have set my own pace. I am not swayed by external pressures. It has taken considerable time, but I have a clear vision and we are now in the final stages. Rushing things often leads to liabilities that can jeopardize financial stability. By proceeding at our own pace, we can achieve our goals within our means.”
Kiggundu shares his ambitious vision, stating, “Our plan is to unveil the stadium before the end of 2023, and we have high hopes of inviting renowned football icons to add a touch of grandeur. However, we’ll focus on these arrangements once the foundation is solidly laid.”
Setting the stage
The completion of Nakivubo Stadium will mark a significant milestone for Kiggundu and the community. Beyond constructing a state-of-the-art sports facility, Kiggundu envisions establishing Ham Sports Club, encompassing football, basketball, netball, and swimming.
The stadium will serve as a platform for nurturing and promoting Ugandan talent, fostering a changed mindset towards sports, and inspiring a new generation of athletes.
“I am yet to be fully convinced upon the functionality of the stadium. But naturally I don’t need to be convinced to love sports,” he said.
Kiggundu’s belief in the power of sports to transform lives is unwavering. His investment in Nakivubo Stadium represents a departure from traditional business ventures and encourages other entrepreneurs to invest in community-driven projects.
Through this initiative, Kiggundu hopes to inspire a shift in mindset, fostering a culture where prosperity is measured by the collective success of the community.
“I would encourage other business people to start investing in sports as well. Prosperity is not limited to individual success. It is good we start doing things that are community-based rather than limiting our success to individual assets,” he said.