Ilorin’s Desolate Baseball Park

Kwara State Governor, His Excellency, Alhaji Abdulfatah Ahmed

At a time the nation wanted to expand its array of sporting interests, the Baseball Park in Ilorin was commissioned amid funfair but it has since fallen into disrepair

When next any minister of Sports in the country talks of revamping sports, he might well pay a visit to Adewole, Ilorin, the Kwara State capital where the first baseball/softball park has been lying in total disrepair. Built in 1990 by the federal government and commissioned by no other person than then Vice President, Augustus Aikhomu, the mini stadium was constructed at the time at the cost of N50 million. Going by the current rate, the cost should be in the billions of naira, which perhaps speaks more of the state of corruption in the country than on the financial cost of sport.

Apart from some exhibition game organized by Adolphus Okafor, the contractor that handled the project, no sporting event for which it was built has taken place at the stadium.

Ironically, the expanse of land on which the park was built was put to more illustrious use as soccer fields by many youth teams and amateur football clubs since the early 1980s. There used to be the Sparks Football Club, a soccer team that produced Toyin Ayinla, ace footballer who made his name with Iwuayanwu Football Club of Owerri. He later became the coach of Kwara United after captaining the topflight premier league team. One of the soccer pitches was home base for International Youth Football Club, IYFC, a youth team that groomed Mike Uweru, first choice goal keeper of Crown Football Club, Ogbomoso, later he moved to Enyimba of Aba, OUK Football Club, Umuahia, now currently signed on at Kwara United.

Sometime in 1989, users of the soccer pitches saw the bulldozers rolling into the area for massive surface excavation work on the site. They were immediately, ejected from their training ground without as much as prior warning, nor alternative venue provided for them. “We initially thought that they wanted to put the pitches in better condition to serve as mini soccer stadium for the whole of Adewole/Pakata zone,” recalls coach Shuaibu ‘Signor’ Ga’ Aremu. He was Uweru’s first youth coach.

Government went ahead with their plans, putting up the base/softball Park. But after the commissioning of the half completed park, the mini stadium was left to fall back into disrepair. Now, the complex has been put to other uses thereby further hastening its deterioration. The expansive sporting arena is now a facility for adverts to many mushroom companies. Lubcon, an oil company has its advert on the walls. There is also Heritage water; there are other adverts on the walls of the main bowl of the park.

“We are not not even sure whether money for the advert and publicity are remitted to the proper quarters,” explained an official at the park. Even so, the park is now used as warehouse of a sort with massive storages of piping materials occupying the grounds.

For the most part, the park was never completed, even though Aikhomu commissioned it. Now, the complex has fallen apart. The roofing has almost entirely gone; the fence has broken down; walls coming down and paints pealing off the walls of the park.

Though late, Okafor, the contractor, while alive said that money billed for the completion of the stadium was never paid. So he had to make do with what he had.