New deal to boost Ellis Park precinct


Built in 1928 on the site of a rubbish dump, Ellis Park is one of Johannesburg's most famous and recognisable sports stadiums.

Today the Ellis Park sports precinct, comprising the Johannesburg Stadium and Standard Bank Arena, continues to be one of Joburg's most important entertainment meccas, hosting a number of world-class sports events and major international music acts.

Yet while it's no longer the garbage dump it once was, the precinct still has its problems, given its location in the heart of Hillbrow's slums and Doornfontein's run-down buildings.

It is hoped, however, that an empowerment deal in which the management of the precinct is taken over by a new company with a 51 percent black ownership will provide a considerable boost towards the regeneration of the precinct and its surrounding areas.

The newly formed company is known as the Ellis Park World of Sport Management Company, with the Golden Lions Rugby Union (GLRU) retaining 49 percent of the management contract of the precinct and a black economic empowerment consortium comprising Orlando Pirates and a company called Interza.lesego holding the other 51 percent.

Interza's stake is 30 percent and Orlando Pirates' 21 percent.

While the City of Johannesburg still owns the precinct, the GLRU's commercial wing, the Ellis Park Stadium (Pty) Ltd, until yesterday held the long-term management contracts.

Now, however, with the new company the precinct is set for much-needed development.

In conjunction with the Johannesburg Development Agency, the city has committed to the development of the Ellis Park railway station, the greening of the area and, with the use of CCTV cameras and enhanced lighting, the improvement of security.

Parking is currently a nightmare for those attending games at Ellis Park or concerts at Johannesburg Stadium and to improve that situation a parking garage accommodating thousands of cars is mooted, as well as a pedestrian-friendly skywalk, a world-class sports academy and a sports museum.

Pirates will be moving their headquarters to the precinct and will play their home matches at either Ellis Park or the Johannesburg Stadium.

Ellis Park stadium manager, George Stainton, said it was the company's wish to make the area one of the most modern and sought-after sporting precincts in the world.

Interza's chairperson, Indarin Govender, acknowledged that there would be difficulties operating the precinct in a "decaying environment".

But while he said there was no "magic wand" to improve the area overnight, the new company hoped to genuinely make a difference.

"We want to attract global events to this precinct. It will be seen as a driver for inner city regeneration," said Govender, adding that the city of Johannesburg was "championing" the project.

Pirates chairperson Irvin Khoza said for the Buccaneers their involvement with the precinct "means growth".

Khoza said he hoped the precinct would be the place where locals and tourists alike would be "jolling" during the 2010 Fifa World Cup.


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