KOCHI: Local favourites Kerala Blasters FC will play their home matches in the next edition of Indian Super League (ISL) on a brand new playing surface at Jawaharlal Nehru International (JNI) Stadium here. The sprawling venue here is now ‘under the knife’ to be upgraded to international standards for the upcoming 2017 FIFA Under-17 World Cup.
After much delay, grass on the 90,000 sq ft playing surface at the stadium is being relaid. It took around a week for the existing grass, except for a small portion retained as a benchmark of the old level, to be shaved off. Also gone are the five cricket pitches at the centre. The ground will be dug up for refurbishing the drainage and irrigation systems before it is levelled and replanted with top quality grass.
“The plan is to complete the work on the playing surface before October so that ISL matches can be staged as per schedule,” said Kerala Football Association secretary Anilkumar P.
A consortium that includes Bengaluru-based Transasia-- the turfing company which renovated the playing surface after appalling drainage had caused the abandonment of matches-- has been tasked with getting the field ready as per FIFA guidelines. While the agreement with the consortium is for a period of five months, ending in December, the understanding is that the work on the ground will be speeded up to complete it by September-end.
“Work is expected to reach full swing in the next couple of weeks, with over 100 ground staff on duty everyday,” KFA secretary pointed out.
While the state government has earmarked Rs 24.88 crore for the renovation of the entire stadium, Rs 2.5 crore will be the approximate cost of re-turfing alone. Work on cleaning up
the 71 toilet blocks in the stadium is also under way. While the broken chairs in the first tier will be replaced for ISL, the fitting of buckets seats in the two upper tiers will be done only after the tournament concludes.
The upgradation of firefighting systems and safety measures and refurbishing of functional areas like dressing rooms, medical facilities, VIP areas, pathways, media centre, security centre and parking spaces are among the other requirements.
According to FIFA regulations, the fully renovated stadium for the Under-17 World Cup is to be handed over by March next year.