Sports minister intervenes June 13, 2007

Sri Lankan board acquires Dambulla stadium

The forthcoming England matches in Dambulla will go ahead as planned © Cricinfo Ltd

The controversial Rangiri Dambulla International Cricket Stadium has been finally acquired by Sri Lanka Cricket (SLC) following the intervention of Gamini Lokuge,the Sports Minister.

Last December, SLC was to have signed a 30-year lease agreement with the authorities of the Dambulla temple, to whom the land belonged. But for some reasons, the agreement failed to materialise with the temple authorities disputing the annual payment.

However on June 12, Lokuge along with SLC officials went to Dambulla to meet the high priest of the temple, Venerable Inamaluwe Sri Sumangala Thero and an agreement was finally decided. K Mathivanan, SLC's secretary, said an initial draft was signed by the two parties giving SLC full access to the stadium from June 13.

"The final legal documents will be signed within a couple of weeks after the commission for Buddha Sasana has decided on the valuation of the land and arrived at a figure which SLC will have to pay the temple authorities," said Mathivanan. "This figure will be reviewed every five years and SLC will have to pay the lease on current land values."

The board was reluctant to pump in any money to uplift or make any improvements to the stadium because there was no proper agreement binding the two parties in the past.

"The earlier agreement was between the Temple authorities and a Trust where Sri Lanka Cricket had no control over the stadium," added Mathivanan. "This new agreement will put us firmly in control so that we can make the much-needed improvements before England come here."

England are due to play five one-day internationals on their tour of Sri Lanka in December, three of which will be played in Dambulla.

The stadium is the brainchild of Thilanga Sumathipala, the former Sri Lankan board president. It was built from scratch in a record 155 days to host the one-day international between Sri Lanka and England on March 23, 2001 . But since then, the stadium has been beset by a string of financial and ownership disputes which has marred its short history. The last one-dayer played there was between Sri Lanka and India in August 2005.