The Bogambara Stadium, also known colloquially as ‘Bogambara’, Which is within walking distance of the city and has served all sports since it was founded in 1897. It has undergone numerous renovations. In 2019 August they started to renovate, but still it is not completed. This is the only public playground in Kandy, housed in the heart of the city which has for over several decades been used for all sports particularly by all schools and clubs. At one time it was used for carnivals, political gatherings, public meeting and so on. Maintenance had the least priority but as the demand in those days were limited there was no actual request to upgrade this valuable sports arena especially the playing surface. In recent years the demand grew with schools and clubs in Kandy increasing their requests for grounds, which the authorities could not cope with.
When it was under the Kandy Municipal Council the allocation of ground was done in a manner that didn’t become an issue to those who making the reservations, as whatever the problem it was sorted out among them and the ground fee was reasonable and was affordable. Once this stadium was vested with the Sugathadasa Complex the entire management changed and the facilities were only confined to sports but on the contrary the demand annually became greater with more schools and less venues resulting in excessive use of the Bogambara Stadium with no maintenance at al. Only the office building was up graded with facilities. The stadium problem became a major threat to the school children as they are exposed to poor ground conditions that led to major injuries or permanent disabilities. Several requests were made to upgrade the stadium. Sports like rugby, football, hockey and athletics can cause injuries and the children were the victims.
At present the Bogambara Stadium ground is out for sports due to re-development, which has taken over a year. This stadium is one of the oldest grounds in the country. School sports meets were held, most of the schools rugby matches were played. The stadium has a capacity of over 30,000 spectators for sports ranging from rugby, football, hockey, athletics, netball, basketball and softball cricket. Earlier the stadium was the main cricket venue and overseas teams too have played. Sometime back there was a proposal that the Bogambara Stadium should be named “Duncan White Stadium” in recognition of the great athlete who brought honour to Sri Lanka at the Olympics. It is understood that he trained at Bogambara while at Trinity College.
In the early days it was also used for sports like Elle and Gudu. Going back to its past Bogambara Stadium was converted from a lake to a playing field in 1897. At one time, it was the site for the annual Perahera carnivals, games circuses and gymkhana activities and even an execution ground during the British occupation. From 1957 to the 1960s, Bogambara was used as a makeshift central market premises due to the demolition of the old market to construct the new one.
The sports loving public and in particular the schools have fervently appealed to consider the issue very important and address as a top priority. A number of sports clubs including Kandy Sports Club, Young Stars SC, Young Wanders SC, Green Field SC, Sunrise F & AC, Youg Olympians and schools including St. Anthony’s College, Trinity College, Sri Rahula College, St. Paul’s (now known as Sri Sumangala College), Dharmaraja College, Vidyartha College, St. Sylvester’s College Kingswood College and all Girls schools used the venue for Athelatics, Netball, Basketball, Football, Rugby and Hockey and also for fitness training. The first unofficial cricket Test in the country was played at this ground.
When the ground was under the Municipal Council it served as a venue for various sports. The Bogambara ground which became a Stadium after the 1972 renovation, thanks to the Commissioner of the Municipal Council MB Samarakoon, who initiated the renovation work with support coming from people like EL Senanayake, Noel Wimalasena, Shelton Ranaraja and Tilak Ratnayake. Others who gave a hand were EW Balasuriya a sports promoter who assisted in raising donations, Chandra Wijenayake, Dr. CDL Fernando, late M. Shanmugam Superintendent of Police CP and late M.E Marikar.
They did their best and put up terraces round the venue. There were also many more donors the names of which were displayed in front of the old pavilion. But today all those names are erased. All the good work was done, as most of the schools and clubs heavily depended on this stadium for their sports almost every day and the owners of the ground the Municipal Council gave them their fullest co-operation.
Then in early 1990s, when a request was made by this writer when he was the Sports Committee Chairman of the Municipal Council and late DIG Bodi Liyanage, the late President R. Premadasa gave a hand to upgrade the Sugathadasa Stadium and the running track which was removed from the Sughatadsa Stadium was given to the Bogambara stadium. Then the late Mayor Edmund Pathirana and the late Chief Minster WMPB Dissanayake gave a big hand to lay the track. Again in 1997 the Bogambara stadium was upgraded due to the efforts of late Anuruddha Ratwatte. To do the renovations the Sports Ministry took over the stadium and promised to return it back. But failed to do so and sportsmen are suffering today especially the ruggerites, footballers, hockey players, athletes and the fitness runners.
At present, sports in Kandy need another ground especially for football, hockey, rugby and cricket. Sports people in Kandy are hoping that the Bogambara Stadium which is in bad shape especially the playing area will be redeveloped as soon as possible. Over to the Sports Minister, please give a hand to do the needful.