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Sri Lankan Prime Minister halts plans for new Colombo cricket stadium

Sri Lankan Prime Minister halts plans for new Colombo cricket stadium
May 22, 2020

Less than a week after Sri Lanka Cricket (SLC) announced plans for a 40,000-seat cricket stadium in Colombo, the nation’s Prime Minister, Mahinda Rajapaksa, has scrapped the proposal following widespread opposition.

Revealed earlier this week, the plan for what would have been the country’s largest cricket stadium was announced for the Homagama district of Colombo.

The first phase was set to see the development of a 40,000-capacity ground as Colombo’s second floodlit facility after R. Premadasa Stadium. The second phase would have expanded the ground to a capacity of 60,000.

With backing from the Sri Lankan Government, the venue was expected to be completed within three years at a cost of US$30 million.

At the time, SLC said the International Cricket Council (ICC) has called for governing bodies interested in bidding for its major events from 2023 to 2031 to have at least five “international level cricket stadiums” with a seating capacity of around 25,000 to 40,000.

SLC had also stressed that Homagama International Cricket Stadium would be an “absolute and private investment” of Sri Lanka Cricket, with no government funds utilised or sought at any stage of the construction.

However, the plans provoked criticism in Sri Lanka with many questioning the wisdom of a major stadium development given the country’s financial situation and having to cope with the impact of the Coronavirus pandemic.

Several legends of Sri Lankan cricket had also voiced their disapproval, with the likes of Mahela Jayawardene, Kumar Sangakkara, Lasith Malinga and Sanath Jayasuriya all said to have been present at a high-level government meeting yesterday.

Following this meeting, the AFP news agency reported a statement from the office of Prime Minister Rajapaksa that advised “it was decided at a meeting with former top players today that instead of the proposed Homagama stadium it was better to spend money on building school cricket.”

The proposal had been a surprise as Homagama already boasts the R Premadasa Stadium, currently the largest stadium in Sri Lanka.

SLC had suggested that a new stadium was needed if it were to host future ICC events, but the nation did host both the men's and women's T20 World Cups in 2012 using three stadiums - one of which is named after the current Prime Minister.

It also emerged that a feasibility study on a new cricket venue in Jaffna - announced by SLC in 2017 - has still not been completed.

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