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NTR Stadium: carving a niche for itself

By A. Joseph Antony

HYDERABAD, SEPT. 27. A few years ago, passers by would have gasped for breath if they dared venture anywhere near the tank, a euphemism for a public latrine.

Today, on the very same site at Gudivada in Krishna district of Andhra Pradesh stands the imposing NTR Stadium. It's one of its kind in the State and perhaps the country as well in that it was built entirely by private enterprise.

It all began with the thespian Chief Minister of Andhra Pradesh, N.T. Rama Rao, who was pained by the sight of the murky mess he set his eyes on one day. A stadium he wanted and true to his word, he swung into action when he got back to Hyderabad.

The 10.2 acre spread was alienated and handed over free of cost to a 32-member committee, with the District Collector as its Chairman. The Revenue Divisional Officer was made Secretary and the Mandal Revenue Officer, the Treasurer. The Vice-Chairman was the MLA, Raavi Sobhanadri Chowdary and P. Jagannadh Rao, the Convenor in the panel consisting of nine officials and 23 life members.

Permission was obtained for conducting 102 lotteries over a year to raise funds for the stadium's construction. After 38 of them were held and Rs. 40 lakhs made its way to the kitty, the agent absconded. Two bank guarantees were invoked and Rs. 1.5 crore realised.

The Chief Minister himself sought the services of the U.P. State Bridge Construction Corporation and work got under way in 1987. Thirteen feet of slush and filth was first filled up. The under- reamed pile foundation, however, gave way in load testing and the open footing design was then adopted.

Four large entrances were erected in the single layered gallery, with the main one now adorned with a statue of NTR. A 400 metre athletic track was laid out. By December 1988, the stadium was ready, housing 182 shops along its peripheral wall.

A monthly rent of Rs. 1.50 lakhs from these fairly successful business establishments is obtained, enough and more for the stadium's upkeep. Even the municipality is happy, since a tax of Rs. 3,24,000 is paid every year. Revenue realised through rent makes the facility self-sufficient and there is therefore no need for any subsidy/support from any government body for the stadium's maintenance.

Public opinion is in favour of the present committee retaining possession of the stadium and against it being handed over to the Sports Authority of Andhra Pradesh (SAAP) or any other government agency. The functioning has been by and large smooth and the accrual of earnings over the years saw the addition of a basketball court and subsequently an indoor stadium.

The pavilion building has two suites and a hall large enough to house a 40-bed dormitory. The running track has lights around it, enabling walkers begin their exercise regimen as early as 4 a.m.

The State Sports Minister, Tammineni Seetharam, on a visit found it feasible to set up a SAAP academy, although the discipline is yet to be identified. A State-level athletic meet was held last year.

A tall wire mesh encloses the basketball court, which also has transparent backboards that could be the envy of other such facilities. A swimming pool was also envisaged, but the space is presently occupied by a `rythu bazaar,' a daily shandy of vegetables and fruits.

The neighbouring NTR indoor stadium, built at a cost of Rs. 1.2 crores has its arena on the first floor. At ground level is the office and a spacious hall, where the Krishna district judo championships were held, not long ago.

Dr. Gangadhar Rao, a life member of the committee says there are plans to have a library, exclusively of sports material, a table tennis hall and a billiards room as well. The poster of a muscular mountain of a man beckons one to what is virtually a large attic on the second floor, which houses the well equipped gymnasium. Every conceivable exercise gadget is available, most of them neatly stacked in racks and stands.

The playing surface of the badminton courts is wooden while the surrounding area is in marble. During the recently held Andhra Pradesh sub-junior and mini badminton championships, it was sweltering inside, simply because there were no exhausts, an obvious flaw in its construction.

``There is a proposal to air-condition the hall,'' says Chinta Pitchiah, another life member of the committee. Ambitious plans are afoot to popularise the stadia as venues for State and National competitions. In what appears to be a practical proposition, an event is planned every two months and a sports calendar is also to be drawn up.

If such pragmatism continues to be the guiding principle, the day is not far when the NTR stadium will carve a niche for itself in the sporting map of the country.

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