The newly-constructed hockey stadium at the Sports Authority of India’s high altitude training centre was inaugurated by Sports Minister M.S. Gill on Tuesday.
The stadium is located some 52 km from Shimla. The artificial turf was laid in August 2009 at a cost of over Rs.3.5 crore.
The SAI Centre, located at an altitude of 8,000 feet and surrounded by picturesque Narkanda and Hatu peaks, has excellent indoor facilities for handball, volleyball, badminton, basketball, table tennis, fencing and wrestling apart from gymnasium and hostel facilities.
Gill, who formally opened the stadium and inspected the training centre, said: “This facility is now ready to host practice sessions for domestic and national players.”
He said more funds would be provided to equip the centre with modern facilities.
“The synthetic turf would be provided in a phased manner in other stadiums too across the country,” he said.
Vidya Stokes, president of the Hockey India, said the players will benefit from practicing at a high altitude.
“I am sure practice at a high altitude place will be beneficial to them and improve their stamina,” she said.
The construction of the hockey stadium has drawn a lot of criticism, especially from the sport fraternity, for such a huge investment in an area where the temperatures remains below freezing point from mid-October to February.
However, three-time hockey Olympian Pargat Singh thinks other way.
“It was long-pending demand of the hockey players for a synthetic track at Shilaroo,” he said.
“It is scientifically proven that training in an oxygen-deficient environment increases the oxygen-carrying capacity of the blood. Practicing at such a high altitude helps the players to utilise greater amounts of oxygen that will enhance their capabilities,” he said.
Stokes said they were trying to develop a 400-metre athletic track of international standards in the centre.
“We are also looking to install floodlights for the hockey ground. Gill has assured more financial assistance for the centre.”