• Monday, April 15, 2024
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NBA star Masai Ujiri calls for massive investment in sports infrastructures

Masai Ujiri

The President of Toronto Raptors in the National Basketball Association (NBA) Masai Ujiri has called on Nigerian and African governments, leaders, investors and corporate bodies to invest heavily in sports infrastructures as it is profit-yielding when properly managed.

The Nigerian spoke at the historic groundbreaking event of The Lagos Arena at The Palms in Victoria Island over the weekend,

He said, “I am so happy to be home in the midst of you all as we start this incredible journey with Chairman Tayo Amusan, his wife and family. I am here to tell you that sports and entertainment is now and we all have to support this project.

“I work in an arena like this in Toronto and I am telling you it is a money-maker; it’s about collaboration. I’m telling you in Africa that it is time; it is real-time in Africa and Nigeria that we open our eyes and see sports as not only recreation and competition but as a real business. Yes, we have to pay attention to that.

“Africa’s biggest talent and Africa’s biggest draw is its talent base. We have people; we have talents. There’s no way that we have people like Davido, Tiwa, Kizz Daniel, Whizkid, Burna Boy, Tems, Rema, Don Jazzy and I can go on naming more and more but they don’t have any good place to perform.

“We cannot have such people and then no arena in Accra, no arena in Lagos, no arena in Nairobi, none in Johannesburg and Abidjan. It’s a shame on us and I take responsibility for it; we should all take responsibility for it because what Chairman (Tayo Amusan) is doing will move this country forward and of course this continent forward. When this arena is built, everything is going to happen here in this arena. Now, think about it. Comedians will use it, business conferences and everything you can think of will take place here.

“Now let’s talk about the naming rights. Please, let me tell you a story. When I took over the job in Canada the arena my team uses was called the Air Canada Centre – that’s where Toronto Raptors play. During my tenure, the naming right ended. Now, we did a deal for who the arena would be named after and that was for $800m for 10 years; yes, $800m. We did the deal for that arena in Toronto to be named The Scotia Bank Arena. So think about all the banks and companies we have here for the naming rights of this arena.

“Every year we have 41 NBA games in that (Toronto) arena, 41 Hockey games, concerts, shows. As I speak to you Burna Boy is performing in that arena tonight and tomorrow and it’s sold out – everything from food to beverages too. We have to wake up in Africa. We have the athletes, we have the entertainers, the comedians and we have smart people.

“The NBA is here. They have put a league in Africa. They have not put any other league elsewhere but they invested in a league here in Africa. I’m appealing to everybody, take this arena here seriously. My brother Tayo, Mr. Governor, everybody, I encourage you. Please let’s make this thing work.

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“I am telling you, this is the future. This will change Nigeria; this will change Africa.

Masai has for more than a decade lamented over the very poor state of the National Stadium in Lagos. He did not miss the opportunity of the huge gathering at The Palms to remind the Nigerian government of the waste of a complex that should be yielding billions of naira annually.

Masai added, “And while we think of that please think about our National Stadium. Let’s fix that place. It is our landmark. That’s the biggest real estate in Africa but nobody knows but I am telling you this now. Please let’s help this man develop this place.”

It was learnt that the Lagos State government is teaming up with the Persianas Group (owned by Amusan), Oak View Group, Live Nation, and the Nigerian Sovereign Investment Authority (NISA) to construct Africa’s first 12,000-seat multipurpose event venue.

Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu said that the commendable project will bring Lagos and Nigeria to the attention of the world and generate jobs for Nigerians.

The arena will accommodate live performances of basketball events, concerts, WWE and many other events.

Amusan, Chairman of the Persianas Group, Governor Sanwo-Olu, Minister of Sports Development John Enoh and Masai Ujiri performed the groundbreaking ceremony.

Amusan said the Arena will have sports, entertainment and hotel facilities and will create more than 15,000 jobs when it becomes fully operational.

“The Arena is anticipated to generate approximately 1500 direct and indirect employment, which will foster the growth of auxiliary industries related to entertainment and sports.”