Mombasa County: Build a rugby stadium instead of a pool

Mombasa county is set to begin the construction of a Sh1.7 billion ultra-modern stadium and the project is expected to be completed in 14 months.

Today is a great day for the county of Mombasa because as we have begun the construction of a world-class sports facility.” said Munywoki Kyalo on Tuesday. Kyalo is the Mombasa County sports executive

It will have a capacity of 12, 500 to accommodate football fans and international rugby matches. There will be an indoor sports arena with a capacity of 1,200 and a convention hall that can host at least 3,000 participants will be built.  There will also be a 25×50 meters swimming pool ” concluded Kyalo

Mombasa stadium was built during the colonial era and badly needs a facelift

That Kenya’s second city is going to get a decent stadium is good news for sports fans in Kenya. Mombasa’s sports facilities are dilapidated and not commensurate with a city of such stature. Also there is a shortage of decent stadia in Kenya. So acute is the shortage that football teams have considered hosting FIFA matches in Tanzania or Uganda when Kasarani and Nyayo were closed for construction.

The only aspect of this project that will not excite sports fans and which does not make sense, is the construction of an Olympic size pool. For the following reasons:

Pools are expensive to maintain

  1. Maintaining an Olympic size pool is expensive. The water must be constantly treated with chemicals to ensure it is sparkling clean every day even if it will not be used for months.
  2. Chemicals must be stocked at the facility for routine cleaning of the pool includingsodium bicarbonate (NaHCO3), 757 L (200 gal) of muriatic acid (hydrochloric acid), 378 L (100 gal) of sodium hydroxide (NaOH), 2,000 kg (907 lbs) of calcium chloride (CaCl2) and gas chlorine (Cl), and 45 kg (100 lbs) of calcium hypochlorite (Ca[ClO]2).
  3. Underground Pumps and filters must be installed and maintained

4. All this requires qualified employees who must be trained and retrained constantly which is expensive.

Olympic size Pools are rarely used and can never pay for themselves.

  1. Hardly any swimming meets are held in Kenya. And people will not pay to watch a swimming meet.
  2. There are already two Olympic size pools at Kasarani and Nyayo that have been used only sparingly since they were constructed in the Mid 1980s
  3. If an international swimming meet that requires an Olympic size pool is highly unlikely to be hosted in Mombasa. So what will the pool im Mombasa be used for?

The expense involved in maintaining an Olympic size pool has on occasion led to the Nyayo stadium pool falling into such disrepair that the water appeared a swampy green.

So why build a pool that will be expensive, difficult and costly to maintain. One that will not generate any revenue but will instead drain financial resources. Why not instead invest the money in a facility that is cheaper to maintain and one that is guaranteed to generate revenue for the county.

What am I talking about? I am talking about building a stadium that has specific facilities that are good enough to host an international rugby tournament. A rugby specific stadium

Why build a rugby specific stadium?

HSBC Rugby Sevens series.

  1. It will enable Kenya to make a serious bid to host a leg of the HSBC Rugby sevens series. Kenya j
  2. has previously made a bid but their bid was not taken seriously for a number of reasons chiefly the lack of adequate facilities.
  3. Hosting a leg of the HSBC Rugby sevens series can generate significant revenue for hotels, restaurants and other tourist facilities.
  4. When visitors come to watch the tournament, they will stay to visit other tourist destinations at the coast including Tsavo national park. This will generate millions of Kenya shillings for Mombasa county each year.

Other rugby tournaments

To convince Mombasa county to build a rugby specific stadium, KRFU could commit to hosting the annual Safari sevens in Mombasa every year or every other year if a new rugby specific stadium is constructed. Ticket sales for the tournament are typically Ksh 10 million to 20 million. A significant fraction of this will go to Mombasa county and if well used, can pay stadium maintenance for several months. Kenya rugby fans will attend a Safari sevens held in Mombasa in large numbers.

Kenya rugby fans travel and attended tournaments in large numbers

There are also numerous other rugby tournaments that can be hosted here including Elgon cup, Victoria cup, World cup qualifiers, Junior world cup qualifiers, tours of European teams and so forth. Mombasa can be come the new “go to” destination for rugby fans from all over the country. And since rugby fans travel in droves, the city of Mombasa will benefit. Traders will make money selling food, drinks, hotel rooms, taxi rides, matatu rides and so forth.

Successfully hosting a series of rugby tournaments in Mombasa is what KRFU needs to convince the international rugby board (IRB) to award Kenya a leg of the HSBC world sevens series. It took nearly two decades of work to convince FIA to bring the world rally championship back to Kenya. A similar effort and organization is needed to bring the IRB sevens series to Kenya. And eventually, Kenya could make a serious bid to host the Rugby Sevens world cup.

What is rugby specific criteria

1. Capacity: The IRB requires a minimum stadium capacity of around 20,000 to host a leg of the IRB series.
2.  Facilities: The stadium must have facilities to host all 16 teams including appropriate dressing rooms for all teams, warm up fields within the stadium and training fields close to the stadium.
3. IRB requires world class broadcast booths and VIP suites
4. Altitude: IRB strongly prefers that World sevens series be held at low altitude cities. This is the criteria that likely disqualifies Nairobi which is 1800 metres above sea level. Which is another reason Kenya needs a rugby stadium at sea level.
5. Ambience: In Kenya rugby, a tournament is not just about watching the game. It is a social event. So construction of a rugby stadium must account for concessions stands, beer parlours, social areas, tailgating areas and so forth. If this is accounted for, fans will attend in droves.
6. No running track: In rugby, fans must be close to the action. Its part of the atmosphere and the IRB will be more likely to award the series if the stadium sight lines bring fans close to the action.

IRB wants fans to be close to the action, not seperated by a running track

It seems blasphemous for a country like Kenya to build a stadium with no running track given that Kenya produces so many the world class athletes. But it is also true that there are already more than enough stadia with running tracks. And Mombasa has not hosted a major athletics competition in decades and likely never will. And nobody pays to watch athletics so the track will never pay for itself. So a running track is just another drain on resources that cannot generate any money.

There are other requirements that are stipulated by IRB including appropriate infrastructure for transportation, guaranteed funding from sponsors and hotel spaces.


Rather than build an Olympic size pool that is expensive and difficult to maintain, it makes perfect sense to instead invest the money bringing the stadium up the standards that would make hosting international rugby tournaments feasible.

The KRFU should now take it upon themselves to convince both Mombasa and Kisumu counties both of which are embarking on major construction projects. They can do this by making specific commitments about hosting tournaments in Kenya’s second and third cities. Rugby fans are numerous travel in droves and will travel upcountry and downcountry if the facilities are appropriate. KRFU should use this as leverage. KRFU must also liase with IRB to find the exact requirements for hosting world class tournaments.

And a rugby specific stadium can still also be used for football. None of this disqualifies the stadium from being used for football on a regular basis. In fact it enhances it. For one thing, football fans and players also want to be closer to the action and not sperated by a running track. In Europe today, no football stadia are being constructed with running tracks. Also, a 20,000 seat stadium in Mombasa will enable Kenya to bid to host the Africa Nations cup.

If Mombasa county feels strongly that they must build a pool for public use then why not build a smaller pool elsewhere. Again, there is no use for an Olympic size pool in Mombasa given that the ones in Nairobi are hardly ever used.

Back to Kenya Rugby Page


Author: blindside

6 thoughts on “Mombasa County: Build a rugby stadium instead of a pool

  1. Good arguments but non rugby loving Mombasa citizens and other Kenyans who love swimming and running will argue that having decent swimming and running facilities will help increase interest in these activities at the Coast – first for recreational purposes and secondly for those who have serious ambitions to compete internationaly. Why should swimmers and runners at the coast have to travel all the way to Nairobi to use first class facilities and Nyayo stadium. It may be that the swimming pool at Nyayo stadium is in a bad state precisely because it is too far away from the serious swimmers who may reside in Mombasa or Kisumu or some other place. It could also be that the facilities at Nyayo stadium are too exclusive and need to be made more available to the regular wananchi to use. Whoever is in charge needs to promote these facilites to all wananchi – either allow regular folk to use them for free or perhaps for a very small fee. Too many facilities in Kenya are too exclusive when they need not be. Since the pool at Nyayo is not being used anyway why not make it available to anyone who wants to use. Thinking out of the box they could also rent it out to hotels in the neighbourhood that don’t have swimming pools of their own.
    Secondly, as to maintenance and upkeep, the more people use the facilites then for sure facilites such swimming pools will have no option but to be well maintained and this is another avenue for employment. Rather than arguing it’s too expensive and people have to be trained it should be sees as opportunity to increase employmnet and create more jobs for Kenyans – Kenyans are always crying that there are no jobs but in reality there are plenty of opportunities just like these.
    Thirdly, it can be argued that it’s up to Kenya Rugby to build their own rugby stadia – rather than being selfish and saying that Mombasa county should build it for them. They could enter into a partneship with Mombasa county to build an additional rugby specific stadium as part of the facilites, in addition the existing proposed facilities. How come they never approached Mombasa county before with a proposal to build a rugby specific stadium?
    Etc., etc.

    1. A pool is a waste. There is not enough swimming talent in Kenya. Therefore Kenya will never become a swimming power. If Mombasa has not produced high calibre swimmers by now then there simply isn’t any potential.
      And I cant remember the last time Mombasa produced any runners. Even Nairobi doesn’t produce any world class runners.
      A pool will not generate any money for the county of Mombasa. It will not attract the kind of revenue that rugby can generate.
      People who want to swim for leisure in Mombasa have a plethora of pools to choose from.

      1. I would go for an indoor Basketball Court like the one launched in Rwanda recenty. KPA have a strong history and Mombasa would have an even stronger case wooing NBA Africa

  2. Mombasa county should just go for a rugby pitch ,i think this will lift Kenya status to host HSBC and as a result a lot of revenue will be made ,tourist along the coast will have some good sports to attend to ,so i prefer a rugby pitch which can also be used for football matches.

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