Salt Lake Stadium: From Left Front den to a refurbished int'l arena
Kolkata: The upgradation of Swami Vivekananda Yuva Bharati Kirangan tells the story how a CPI(M) den has been converted into an exceptional international arena.
The sole credit goes to Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee who went out of her way to ensure that world-class infrastructure is put up at the sporting arena. Overwhelmed at the arrangement, the administration of FIFA who are in the city, have lauded the efforts of the state government. At the same time photographs of the stadium wearing a new look has gone viral on social media with people leaving comments like "Mamata Banerjee government made an impossible task possible". Renovation of the stadium was completed within a year's span. According to a senior official of the state Public Works Department (PWD), members of the Local Organising Committee (LOC) of FIFA used to conduct monthly inspections and were amazed to see the regular development that was brought about in the stadium every month since they started visiting it after work began.
Starting from developing infrastructure of international standards to conduct the Under-17 World Cup matches to making arrangements for security of each and every person present in the ground have been done maintaining international standards. Besides laying synthetic turf and track for athletes around the ground, a proper drainage system has been brought in place to ensure that play can continue even during rainfall. After the renovation, there are bucket chairs now to accomodate a capacity of around 68,000 along with separate glass enclosures for VVIPs and media that never existed earlier in the stadium. Moreover, following the FIFA guidelines, all chairs have been numbered. Four elevators have been installed in the stadium. Most importantly, proper infrastructure has been created so that people can enter and exit the stadium without facing any trouble. There were 30 ramps of the stadium but most used to remain shut. During the renovation, all the ramps have been thrown open and the ramps have been given a complete new look. The ring road around the stadium and the approach roads to the ramps have been widened and special police watch camps have been constructed at all the eight gates to the stadium premises.
The rest rooms in the stadium which had become den of goons during the Left Front regime have now become air-conditioned rooms.
The subways through which players will reach the ground from their dressing rooms have got a completely new look with sufficient lighting arrangements. There are all air-conditioned referee rooms, meeting rooms, conference rooms, dining rooms, special VVIP launches, gymnasium and a media briefing centre with international standard flooring and proper fire fighting arrangements in the stadium itself. Most importantly new floodlights have been installed and sub-station has been set up within the stadium premises to meet proper voltage requirement for uninterrupted power supply. Four practice grounds including one for athletes have been developed within the stadium itself. Sculptures including one that was designed by the Chief Minister have been installed and a waterbody has been transformed to a boating arena as a means of entertainment.
Even on Friday, senior officers of the PWD visited the roads outside the stadium to inspect the beautification work.
It may be mentioned that Society for Sports and Stadium that was set up under the chairmanship of former Mayor Kamal Bose had constructed the stadium after holding major football matches in the Maidan became a regular law and order problem.
After the stadium came up, Airlines Cup and Nehru Cup matches were held in which international teams used to participate. But from the late 1980's, the stadium became a fiefdom of the then Sports minister Subhas Chakraborty and the rooms meant for players were used to keep party cadres. When Operation Sunshine was conducted in the mid 1990's to remove hawkers from the streets, CPI-M cadres with lethal weapons were put up in the stadium. Over the years due to sheer neglect, commentary box, players' room, etc, reached a deplorable condition. There were bushes all around the stadium and the toilets were full of filth and dirt.
Come October 8, not only Kolkata but the whole world will witness the magic of Swami Vivekananda Yuva Bharati Kirangan, more commonly known as Salt Lake Stadium, that lay barren and desolate for years, crying out for the cheer and mirth of thousands of spectators who would come to enjoy a game of football.