CHENNAI: Faced with the spiralling cost of maintaining indoor stadia across the State, the authorities have decided to rent them out for non-sporting activities, including meetings and cultural events, without affecting sporting events.
Of the five stadia that it runs and 13 more in the pipeline set to be opened this year, only the multi-purpose indoor stadium in Periyamet in Chennai is being rented out for private programmes. “Soon, similar facilities in other districts, including Salem, Krishnagiri and Dharmapuri, will be rented out. The Sports Development Authority of Tamil Nadu (SDAT) will announce the tariffs after the executive committee meeting to be held in July,” said a highly placed source in the Department of Youth Welfare and Sports Development.
The decision was not an easy one to take, as there has been quite a debate for and against renting such facilities for non-sporting activities. The first time it was taken up was way back in 1982, when the then government banned holding public meetings and cultural programmes in stadia, except those organised by the government. The authorities noted that such functions often caused damage.
This was relaxed in 1996, when permission was given to conduct music, dance, theatre and similar entertainment shows and public meetings at the indoor stadium, Chennai. It, however, was not without trouble.
The then opposition leader, J Jayalalithaa, had raised objection when the stadium was rented out for Tamil Nadu Film Producers Association for its Platinum Jubilee celebration in 1998. However, the government said strict measures were taken to ensure that no damage was caused and clarified that similar facilities in other districts were strictly reserved only for sporting activities. The Education Department (under which SDAT was functioning then) relaxed the ban in the later years to permit non-sporting events in the rest of the stadia, but only those organised by the government.
In 2005, following a writ petition filed in the Madras High Court by a karate champion against conducting the farmers conference at the Periyamet stadium, the court questioned the maintainability of the government order in this regard. The State then moved the Supreme Court which allowed it to amend the order.
The rules have been amended now after detailed deliberations, sources told Express. “The revenue generated by renting out all indoor stadia will be used solely for their maintenance and promotion of sports activities,” said a senior SDAT official.
But this has not enthused athletes and the wider sporting fraternity. “Even though it would help SDAT earn revenue, regular practice might get affected in the long run, particularly when too many events get booked like in the case of Chennai Stadium,” said N Nizamudeen, coach of the national triple jump team for Olympics.
He added that minor damages on the wooden floors are inevitable despite covering them. But the SDAT official said the stadia would be rented out only on days when there was no sporting event scheduled and strict safeguards would be adhered to.
“No arches, dais, projections or flags of political and religious outfits will be permitted. The private organisations will be held responsible for damages,” the official added.