URA stadium: A decade of delays

URA players celebrate a goal. PHOTO/JOHN BATANUDDE 

What you need to know:

In 2014, URA FC secured the land through a clever strategy, utilising player sales and gate collections.

A decade ago, URA FC unveiled ambitious plans to build a 25,000-seater stadium on their 10-acre plot in Bugema, Luweero. The excitement was palpable at an event graced by veteran Luweero Triangle politician Al hajji Abdul Nadduli and URA top leaders – a permanent home to solidify the club's identity and generate revenue. However, the dream remains unfulfilled 10 years later.

In 2014, URA FC secured the land through a clever strategy, utilising player sales and gate collections. Former finance director Magezi Rubaale headed the initiative raising Shs243m which was used to obtain the prime land near Bugema University.

Magezi expressed his disappointment with the stalled project. He envisioned the stadium as a source of income and building a strong fanbase.

"We would be far as a club if we had focused on this stadium," he said, highlighting the missed opportunity.

Early optimism was boosted by the sale of striker Yasser Mugerwa to Orlando Pirates in 2015 at $110,000 (about Shs330m.)

However, leadership changes and a trophy drought saw the stadium project lose momentum.

When Magezi and then-chairman Ali Ssekatawa departed, the focus shifted elsewhere. This coincided with URA FC's last major trophy – the 2014 Uganda Cup.

Paying the price

Over the past ten years, URA FC has become a team without a true home, bouncing between various stadiums – Mehta Stadium, Bombo Barracks, Fufa Technical centre Njeru, Ndejje University, Nakisunga and currently, Kabaka Kyabaggu Stadium. Each venue comes with its own set of challenges, from renting temporary facilities to incurring additional expenses.

Over the past 10 years, URA FC has incurred varying rental fees depending on the venue used for match days.

The most expensive venue is their first home Namboole at Shs1m per match. Lugazi and Njeru offered a more affordable option at Shs500,000 and Shs400,000 respectively.

Bombo, their current home Kyabaggu and Nakisunga fell within a similar range, costing Shs350,000 and Shs300,000 per match. Ndejje also came in at Shs300,000 per match day.

Being homeless isn't cheap either. Security staffing, transportation costs, and venue-specific requirements all contribute to these challenges.

For instance, at Ndejje, temporary dressing rooms were needed through tent rentals for every match, while at Nakisunga, additional expenses were incurred for water provision.

Talk vs action

Despite acknowledging the importance of a permanent home in 2020, URA's progress on their stadium project has been minimal. 

Despite emphasising the importance of a stadium in 2020 during James Mayeku's appointment as CEO (Mayeku served as club secretary from 2011-2016), progress stalled under chairman James Kizza.

For all the investment, URA FC keep hoping from ground to ground. PHOTO/COURTSEY 

Kizza emphasised the need for a stadium, but his successor, Miccah Gaalya, shifted focus to a more intangible goal of becoming a "global brand."

“Our target is to turn the club into a global brand as one of the most sought after brands,” he said while unveiling water company Hema, as sponsors in 2022.

While talk of a stadium persists, the club's actions paint a different picture. Frequent coaching changes and nomadic stadium hopping have become hallmarks of URA FC's recent years.

Hope at last?

However, a glimmer of hope remains. Allan Munaaba, the General Secretary and a former defender, assures fans that the project isn't dead. He revealed plans to explore private investment as a means to finally build the long-awaited stadium.

“Plans are in place either to give it to a private investor to construct and get naming rights for some years or to lobby from the government or get independent contractors at plausible terms,” Munaaba said.

He says planning for the stadium is underway, with proposals outlining the initial groundwork needs. A swampy area with a steep incline presents a significant challenge, requiring a substantial investment. Early estimates suggest costs could range from Shs300 million to Shs650 million.

Daily Monitor understands that Lt Col Edrine Ochieng, the chairman of Gaddafi FC, was handed the work for ground levelling.

URA rental fees in the past 10yrs

Namboole - Shs1m (per match)

Lugazi - Shs500,000 per match)

Kyabaggu - Shs500,000 per match

Njeru - Shs400,000

Bombo - Shs300,000

Nakisunga - Shs350,000

Ndejje - Shs300,000

Source: Stadium personnel