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Durban's iconic Moses Mabhida Stadium braces for millions in lost revenue

An outside view of the Moses Mabhida Stadium in Durban.
An outside view of the Moses Mabhida Stadium in Durban.

Moses Mabhida Stadium acting stadium manager Sijabulile Ntuli anticipates a loss of tens of millions of Rands in revenue for the 2010 World Cup semifinal venue‚ depending on how long the national lockdown in response to the coronavirus outbreak in South Africa lasts.

Durban’s iconic football stadium is one of the 2010 Fifa World Cup venues that has managed to find sustainable financial solutions to not be a major burden on taxpayers.

Built at a cost of R3‚6-billion‚ Moses Mabhida does not have a permanent Premier Soccer League (PSL) club as a tenant. But the stadium hosts about 20 big matches a year‚ including cup finals.

Moses Mabhida’s running costs annually are about R100-million.

Football‚ events‚ retail anchor tenants such as the Virgin Active gym‚ restaraunts and shops‚ the SkyCar lift and SkyWalk on the venue’s iconic arch‚ functions in the suites‚ and stadium tours generate an income of about R80-million. This means the taxpayer foots a R20-million bill for the stadium annually.

Ntuli said all that has ground to a halt. PSL football is suspended‚ and all planned events – including two big church gatherings‚ which attract bigger crowds than soccer – are awaiting possible dates for rescheduling.

“Even before the lockdown we had to suspend our business operations just before the announcement by the president‚” Ntuli told SowetanLIVE.

“We assessed our operations from the attraction side‚ like the stadium tours where we have international and local tourists‚ and the SkyWalk‚ where people walk closely to each other. We suspended those way before the lockdown even‚ as our assessment was it was too risky for tourists and our staff to continue.

“Our anchor tenants did their own assessments and also suspended prior to the lockdown. Our revenue streams come from the attractions that we run‚ some internally operated‚ some externally like the Big Jump [swing off the arch]‚ and from rental and events.

“We are sitting with a lot of events that have been postponed. WWE (World Wrestling Entertainment) was coming in April. The Comrades Marathon is a down run‚ due to finish at Moses Mabhida in June and we’re still not sure what date it will be – we’ve reserved time in September. Most of our events are hanging with no confirmed dates.

“And of course the PSL is suspended. So we are affected from an events point of view‚ attractions and anchor tenants.

“It’s a total shutdown. What we haven’t done is quantify the financial losses as yet. But we are anticipating a big hit financially.”

Ntuli said until variables such as not knowing if and how long the national lockdown will continue‚ whether there will be government bailouts to the anchor tenants‚ meaning they can pay their rent‚ and with negotiations on that ongoing‚ Moses Mabhida cannot put an exact figure on its losses.

She said Virgin Active has suspended its member subscriptions nationally‚ so is not generating that income during the lockdown.

She said the stadium does hope to recoup some of its losses if some of the postponed events are rescheduled to later dates.

“But even then‚ even if you still have half of the year open‚ from July to December‚ you can only fit so much‚” she said.

Ntuli said the stadium will be able to quantify its losses once its is back in operation.