The Mandela Bay Development Agency (MBDA) has reflected on its operation of Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium, claiming significant progress has been made since it assumed control of the venue in 2016.

The stadium was initially built for South Africa’s hosting of the 2010 FIFA World Cup and has a capacity of 48,000. It is currently used to host football and rugby matches, along with other events.

The MBDA was formed in 2004 with the initial objective of providing urban regeneration in Port Elizabeth, where the NMB Stadium is based. In a statement issued by the MBDA, the agency’s chief executive Ashraf Adam said the stadium is gradually lessening its burden on local rate payers and “strategically recruiting and securing prized sporting and non-sporting events”.

Adam pointed to NMB Stadium’s status as a “multi-purpose” facility, which ensures that it is not solely dependent on sporting events. Adam said the NMB Stadium management team has been aggressive in its approach to attract a wide range of events to the venue, which he feels bucks the trend for major stadia in South Africa.

The stadium has hosted rugby’s International Sevens tournament, as well as the Colour Run, Super Rugby matches, Premier Soccer League games, the Mountain Bike Challenge and the recent rugby union Test match between South Africa and Australia.

Yesterday (Wednesday), the stadium also began hosting the first-ever African Advanced Manufacturing and Composite Show in Africa, which showcases the latest in cutting-edge manufacturing technology.

Other events on the agenda include football’s Telkom Knockout Cup Final on December 8, and the Ebubeleni Music Festival, which is expected to attract more than 20,000 spectators.

Adam added that the MBDA is working “tirelessly” to ensure the stadium continues its trend towards breaking even, pointing out that last year the team achieved a “significant expenditure reduction” in its annual operational costs.

NMB Stadium also recently partnered with The Waste Trade Company to launch its Green hub initiative, and is seeking to introduce other high-tech amenities to enhance the experience for stakeholders.

Adam said: “The MBDA’s mandate is to reduce the burden on rate payers and diversify income streams in order to place the stadium on a path to sustainability. The Agency is already making huge strides with several new innovations such as the creation of a Sports Museum, off-grid power initiatives and water-saving initiatives.

“Stadia across the world have implemented various forms of museums to celebrate sport and the host city’s heritage as means to keep foot traffic high and generating a steady income stream. This initiative which is due for completion by June 2019 will offer great opportunities to local traders and entrepreneurs to provide unique local artworks, merchandise and crafts that are made in Nelson Mandela Bay.

“Taking the NMB Stadium off the power and water grid and having it contribute to the system is one of the major long-term goals set for the stadium management team. The MBDA believes that this is possible given the abundant sunshine hours, wind, proximity to the lake and the ocean. The memorandum of understanding signed between the Nelson Mandela University and the MBDA is one mechanism aimed at leveraging local knowledge, technical expertise and research to look at feasible and cost-effective ways to bring this idea to reality.

“As we look to the future, we ask all our stakeholders to work with us to ensure that this facility maintains its status and performs its role as a critical centre-point for economic development, community building, social cohesion, sports development and as a magnet for major events in the Bay. With an imaginative team, good corporate governance, sound financial management and compliance systems, the NMB stadium is on a path to sustainability.”

Image: Meraj Chhaya