The National Stadium (formerly called Surulere Stadium) boasts of a main bowl capable of accommodating over 50,000 spectators and a record attendance of 85,000 during the African Cup of Nations (final match) in 1980 between Nigeria and Algeria.
Also, the complex houses an Olympic size swimming arena and a multipurpose arena used for wrestling, boxing, volleyball, table tennis and most especially basketball tournaments.
The Stadium has hosted several competitions since its construction, the last sports event was a national team game in 2004.
Other facilities in the complex include; gymnasium, tennis courts, basketball courts, volleyball courts and football pitches.
On a serious note, I’m not going to bore you with a juicy narrative for more views, we’ll get to those parts later on.
For this article, I’d rather open with the facts.
The Painful Truth:
Built in 1961, the architecture of the stadium is highly commendable, the robust connections between columns and beams in the main bowl is a concrete beauty and the cantilever terraced seats are amazing.
Multiple entrances with viable offsets from the access road (Western Avenue) and ample parking spaces keep traffic congestion to a minimum.
Facilities are well located and the site layout is outstanding.
Let’s cut to the chase, the National Stadium has been abandoned by the Federal Government since 2002, it has deteriorated and is currently underutilised.
Even with the locks, a mere view of the main bowl paints a vivid picture, the coatings have peeled off, rusted steel trusses are visible, roofing sheets are missing and many seats are loose.
Relevant stakeholders like Lagos State Government and National Sports Commission have in recent years shown keen interest in rehabilitating the multi-purpose stadium, still the main bowl has not regained its lost glory.
The National Stadium is currently plagued by “agberos” (hoodlums) that roam about aimlessly and squatters seeking shelter in the premises especially at night.
It is shameful that despite the calibre of events hosted by the stadium in recent years, its present state is laughable.
Although the main bowl is used for religious events, it remains locked at most times to hide or secure the public from the dilapidated facility (my opinion).
Security agencies are also always on scene to ensure the grounds are conducive for sport activities.
Enough bad news!
The fun part:
If you could digest all that without skipping paragraphs, I’m really impressed.
NB: This article is not supposed to scare or discourage you from visiting the prestigious National Stadium in Surulere, though I started off with the deplorable state of the main bowl, it is not the subject of this article.
I trust you will have loads of fun from visiting the stadium because there are many other facilities and opportunities in the complex. It is my belief that the stadium will one day regain its lost glory.
This is why you should visit the National Stadium:
Exercise: If you’re looking for where to burn some calories (conveniently) the National Stadium is your go-to place. You could make new friends while doing it plus there’s so much distance to cover, groups chant funny songs as they jog with some members pouring powder on their faces to spice things up.
The Gym: It is located away from other sports facility in a more serene environment and has an access road directly linked to the highway. It is stacked with various fitness equipment, with a small fee you can work out all you want and easily get a personal trainer.
Once you’re recognised as a member, there’s a small feast every Saturday you can be part of, various mouth-watering African delicacies are served.
Sightseeing: Nigerian sports history unveil the National Stadium as home of many treasures.
If you’re just like me, not too interested in sports, it is an interesting place to visit, stroll around to relax your mind from the hustle and bustle of Lagos metropolis, notice minimal details, watch games and see all facilities.
Also, you can visit Teslim Balogun Stadium, it is adjacent to the National Stadium.
Business-friendly environment: The atmosphere is relaxing and accommodating, it is very good for entrepreneurs. Sports wears, gears, exercising kits, protein supplements all rake in profits. Be sure to get permission from authorities and pay dues promptly.
Mentorship in various sports: There are so many groups to select from, irrespective of your age. You and your kids can be taught karate, swimming, boxing, basketball or football lessons to name a few.
You may also be surprised to find a Nigerian celebrity in your group.
Historical significance: The National Stadium is a landmark, a pride of Surulere. It was on its grounds that Nigeria lifted her first African Cup of Nations title in 1980.
Also, it staged the first Nigerian National Sports festival in 1986, a game aimed at promoting peace and cross cultural association after the Nigerian Civil war.
In my opinion, the National Stadium is a hallowed site for Nigeria’s sporting prowess.