Madurai

This one-stop sports destination needs better facilities

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The sprawling Race Course campus offers training in 12 disciplines but grapples with some shortcomings

On a weekend evening, the indoor badminton court inside the Race Course sees a flurry of activity. The four synthetic courts are continuously occupied as pairs of players take turns to play. The court is never left idle as young boys and girls make use of it to the hilt. A coach says practice sessions were under way for an the upcoming State-level tournament.

Similar is the scene at the tennis court, the football field and the volleyball ground. On an average about 3,000 people, including walkers, athletes, swimmers and people training in various sports disciplines, use the Race Course facilities every day.

It has been the one-stop destination for sports activities ever since it was established by Sports Development Authority of Tamil Nadu in 1970. Spread over 26 acres, it was named MGR Stadium, but popularly known as the Race Course. It offers infrastructure and training in nearly a dozen disciplines, including hockey, table tennis, handball, volleyball, badminton, swimming, basketball and football.

“The 400-metre synthetic athletic track is the most outstanding feature of the place. It is well- maintained and perfect for practice. A day’s fee for using it is about ₹5,000 and is quite nominal compared to private facilities,” says a member of the District Athletics Association.

“There are four synthetic courts for badminton, two for basketball, tennis and table tennis. There is also a multi-purpose indoor court. A synthetic hockey turf and grass field for football were also established a few years ago. We only have a clay ground for volleyball and handball, which may also be upgraded in future,” says District Sports Officer Lenin.

Mr. Lenin adds that a Sports Science Centre, to treat sports injuries, will start functioning in a few months.

“A sports medicine specialist and a physiotherapist will be available at the centre to give first aid and physiotherapy treatment to the injured players,” he says. While the building has been completed, the equipment are yet to be purchased and the total project is pegged at ₹5 crore. “After Chennai, Madurai will be the first city to have such a facility,” he adds.

The hostel on the campus houses 140 inmates, all males, practising six disciplines – hockey, athletics, basketball, volleyball, badminton and football.

“They are given ₹250 from the SDAT as daily food allowance. They are selected through counselling after they score ranks in State-level events. After high school, they undergo a reselection to continue during their 11th and 12th grades,” says the DSO.

Less toilets

However, users point some shortcomings. “The Race Course has been around for a long time now and it needs a revamp to become a modern sports complex. The façade and the driveway look run down. The car parking turns slushy during rains and can be paved or cemented,” says S. Manoharan, a regular jogger.

One of the coaches points to the need for dressing rooms for players, especially for girls. “Girls change into sports outfit at the toilets which are few and ill-maintained too. There are only three toilets each for men and women. Given the number of people using the campus, there must be more toilets,” he says.

Bigger pool

Users of swimming pool say some of the tiles are broken and can cause injury. Similarly, handball players feel the mud ground should be converted to a synthetic one.

An SDA official says construction of toilets and paving of car parks can only be taken up with the help of sponsors as the government funds only for sports infrastructure. Two proposals have been sent to the government.

“The pool is 25 metres long and during competitions, the contestants have to do four laps for a 100-metre race. So we have planned to expand it to 50 metres,” he says. “The other proposal is to construct a gallery around the synthetic hockey turf, similar to the one around athletic track.”

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Printable version | Dec 15, 2019 2:11:48 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/Madurai/this-one-stop-sports-destination-needs-better-facilities/article29875631.ece

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