Athletics: Sports Minister looking to expedite high altitude training centre

Sunday, 9 September 2018 Sport

The Ministry of Sports will pursue the multi-billion rupee high altitude training centre at the Nuwara Eliya Racecourse which has been put on hold by the government over the financial viability of the project. 

The project which includes indoor and outdoor training facilities at an altitude of 1868m (5708 feet) estimated to cost a staggering €75.5 million or approximately Rs 12.9 billion). 

The money is expected to be sourced by the contractor. 

“This has been put on hold by some funding issues. But I will definitely pursue it,” said Minister of Sports Faiszer Musthapha. 

“ This is something we badly need as most of the events are held in high altitude places. But there has been some questions with regard to the financial viability but I will take it forward”. 

The project was initiated by Minister Navin Dissanayake during his short stint as minister of sports and was pursued by Dayasiri Jayasekera during his term as sports minister. 

However the government has found it difficult to accommodate the loans as priority has to be given to social infrastructure. 

They thought rather than going for a loan, they should go a public-private partnership in a manner that generates income to the government. 

There have been questions regarding the economic feasibility of the project, spending a huge sum for a ‘fancy’ training centre and how would the administration generate returns on the heavy investment. 

This was quite different to the sentiments expressed by the government previously. 

After signing the technical agreement with the French Company–Ellipse Project SAS in July last year, former Sports Minister Dayasiri Jayasekera said that the project is not a business venture but an investment to improve the general standard of sports and hence they would pursue with the project. 

Once constructed, the training facility will have an indoor sports complex, indoor swimming pool, multi-sport ground, cricket ground, 400-metre synthetic running tracks, 400-metre grass track, two indoor tennis courts, administration block and medical centre, apartment block and a hotel with 75 room facility. 

The Cabinet last year approved the transfer of an Urban Development Authority (UDA) land (1 acre, 1 rood and 23.69 perches) to the Ministry of Sports the construction of the hotel. (1 acre, 1 rood and 23.69 perches). 

Rejected by the Treasury’s Cabinet Review Committee (CRSC) on two previous instances–in 2009 and 2013–the project was pursued for the third time by the SLFP-UNP collective government. 

The Cabinet approval was granted in December 2016 subject to the Ministry of Sports obtaining all approvals from relevant authorities. 

According to Cabinet Memorandum MNPEA/2017/068 submitted by Minister of National Policies and Economic Affairs, Ellipse Projects SAS was selected by the Ministry of Sports to implement the project under financial assistance from UKEF’s (United Kingdom Export Finance) and Hatton National Bank of Sri Lanka. The Cabinet paper also says UKEF is to finance up to 70 per cent of the project price while the balance 30 per cent is to be sourced through a local bank. 

“Negotiations have been concluded to with the UKEF to obtain a buyer’s credit facility of up to Euro 51,576,006.15 to cover approximately 70 per cent of the contract price of the project and with Hatton National Bank of Sri Lanka (HNB) to obtain a credit facility of up to Sri Lankan rupees equivalent of Euro 23,952,694.76 to cover the remaining balance of the contract value,” the Memo says. 

The funders have offered a 13-year repayment period including a three-year grace period.

Athletics: Sports Minister looking to expedite high altitude training centre