Nakivubo Stadium Revamp Ushers in a New Era for Uganda’s Sports Landscape

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By Namutebi Sumayiya

Kampala was a city reborn on June 1, 2024, as the much-anticipated Hamz Stadium, formerly known as Nakivubo War Memorial Stadium, celebrated its grand opening.

This momentous event marked a new chapter in the Ugandan sports and entertainment landscape, showcasing the vision and determination of young mogul Hamis Kiggundu, who undertook the ambitious reconstruction project through his company, Ham Enterprises (U) Ltd, in partnership with the Ugandan Government.

The journey to this grand opening began in 2017 when Hamis Kiggundu embarked on the extensive renovation of Nakivubo War Memorial Stadium. This project, undertaken as a Public-Private Partnership (PPP), transformed the historic stadium into a state-of-the-art facility, ready to host a multitude of sports and entertainment events.

 

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The culmination of years of hard work and dedication was formally recognised on April 25, 2024, when President Museveni, during the commissioning ceremony, praised Hamis Kiggundu’s national developmental vission and announced the 49-year lease granted to Ham to manage and recover his investment.

The grand opening event on June 1, 2024, was nothing short of spectacular. The festivities commenced at 7:00 PM with a dazzling 10-minute fireworks display that illuminated the Kampala skyline, setting the stage for an unforgettable evening. The excitement was palpable as the 35,000-capacity stadium filled nearly to the brim, with all 40 executive boxes and lounges, priced at 10 million shillings each, and completely sold out.

From football to boxing, the grand opening offered a diverse range of activities that kept the audience on the edge of their seats. The opening football match saw URA FC triumph over Kitara FC with a 3-0 victory, followed by an official grand opening ceremony accompanied by another spectacular 10-minute fireworks display. The night continued with thrilling performances by top Ugandan artists, including Rema, Eddy Kenzo, Cindy, Bebe Cool, Alien Skin and many others creating an electric atmosphere.

The sports action resumed with SC Villa defeating Express FC 1-0, with the winning teams each receiving a 10 million shillings award. Amateur boxing saw Zahara Nandawula triumph over Flavia Babirye, and professional boxing featured Isaac Zebra Jr and Abas Seguya, with Zebra emerging the belt winner.  A draw match between Golola Moses and Umar Sematta added to the excitement.

Other Sports at the inauguration included basketball ball matches between KIU titans Vs Jt Jaguars, Nam Blazers Vs UCU canons and Netball matches between KCCA, Weyonje, and NIC.

The grand opening was graced by an impressive array of VVIPs, high-profile celebrities, and tycoons. Notable attendees included former Vice Presidents Gilbert Bukenya and Edward Kiwanuka Ssekandi, FUFA President Moses Magogo, Vision Group CEO Don Wanyama, ONC boss Hajjat Hadijah Namyalo Uzeiye, His Excellency Godfrey Kirumira Kalule, and city tycoons led by Mandela Group’s Ahmed Omar Mandela. These distinguished guests enjoyed complimentary meals while immersing themselves in the festivities.

Tight security measures were implemented to ensure the safety of all attendees. Rigorous checks and the presence of security agencies, including the UPDF, maintained order both inside and outside the venue. City access roads within a 2km radius to the stadium were closed off to and from, allowing only VIP access and pedestrian entry, contributing to a secure and orderly environment.

In addition to the exciting activities and performances, emergency medical attention was available to all attendees, ensuring their safety throughout the event. First aid was promptly administered to Muhindo Geofrey, a spectator in ordinary seating, who had an attack following the loss of Kitara FC. These gestures of providing first-class medical attention to even ordinary spectators amazed everyone and left all event attendees grateful for the quality of services provided.

Adding to the grandeur, a variety of meals and drinks were served to all spectators, courtesy of Ham. This gesture not only satisfied the culinary cravings of the attendees but also underscored the hospitality and generosity that marked the event.

Reflecting on the event’s success, Hamis Kiggundu expressed his heartfelt gratitude. “Thanks to everyone, it was such a successful and wonderful grand opening,” he stated. “The stadium is now ready to host sports and other activities. For God and My Country.” he added.

The grand opening of Hamz Stadium was more than just an event; it was a celebration of Ugandan culture, talent, and unity. The fusion of sports, music, and fireworks created a magical ambiance that will be remembered for years to come. The event lasted until 5:30 AM on Sunday morning, marking the beginning of a new era for this iconic stadium and reaffirming its place as a hub for sports and entertainment in Uganda.

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