Details are emerging of what a monster the Chinese Government-sponsored Blantyre 40 000-seater stadium promises to be at a cost our estimates show could be as high as $50 million (K8.4 billion at present exchange rates).
The new sports arena is also billed to be of high-tech Olympic standard.
Malawi Government handed over the stadium project to Hualong Construction Company last week for ground work, Ministry of Youth Development, Welfare and Sports Principal Secretary Alex Mseka confirmed on Wednesday.
Mseka said the stadium will be erected at Soche adjacent to the television satellite â€œas the town planners earmarked the piece of land for a stadium and we did not need to buy landâ€.
â€œIt will be like the [the one the Chinese built in ] Tanzania [but] with slight improvements. Figures will emerge after soil tests. Previous estimates were done two years ago based on soil tests done at the previous Area 49 location,â€ Mseka said when asked about the new stadiumâ€™s cost and construction duration.
As an Olympic standard stadium, it will have specialised facilities such as synthetic running track, conference rooms, television circuit, shopping and exhibition rooms, press galleries, treatment rooms, car park and bathrooms.
Football would be the stadiumâ€™s biggest beneficiary with the prospect of increased gate takings and solving critical shortage of venues for hosting international matches and competitions.
The dilapidated 35 000-seater Kamuzu Stadium is the only one certified fit, with some strings attached, to host Fifa-sanctioned matches.
FAM president Walter Nyamilandu and Sports Council executive secretary George Jana separately insisted government was handling all the stadiumâ€™s matters; hence, they are better placed to comment.
The Nation has established from similar Chinese Government funded Africa stadiums that construction took some two years, costing between $50 million and $100 million.
With the projected 40 000 capacity, the stadium could consume a floor area of 42 000 square metres.
In Gabon, Librevilleâ€™s new stadium funded by China cost $65 million and has a 40 100 capacity.
The Chinese built a similar Olympic standard structure in Maputo, Mozambique, inaugurated in January last year and it cost $60 million.
Construction of a similar 60 000-seater National Stadium in Dar es Salaam spanned from 2004 to 2008 and consumed roughly $50 million, according to www.ministryoftofu.com.
In Zambia, The Post newspaper quoted that countryâ€™s Chinese Ambassador Zhou Yuxiao as saying his government will hand over the Lusaka Stadium in 18 monthsâ€™ time.
Construction started in 2010 at a cost of $94 million, creating employment for 1 000 Zambians and 100 Chinese.
Blantyre City Council chief executive officer Ted Nandolo had, as we went to press, not responded to our questionnaire on what the stadium will mean to his city.
The move of the stadium project from Lilongwe to Blantyre recently sparked a furole, especially in Parliament. On November 11 2010 the National Assembly passed a loan bill from the Chinese for the stadium
President Bingu wa Mutharika justified the shift, explaining that Lilongwe has benefited from many Chinese-sponsored projects. He also said there was merit in having the new stadium in Blantyre because Fifa already condemned Kamuzu Stadium.
In 2010, Mutharika announced a K40 billion (about $240m) aid package from China that includes the stadium, the Karonga-Chitipa Road and the new Parliament building.
Chinese Ambassador Pan Hejun, recently told the press in Lilongwe that â€œpreviously, the Malawi Government wanted it to be built in Lilongwe, but we have received information that they now want it in Blantyre.â€