The Merdeka Stadium, one of the country’s most historical landmarks, is expected to reopen its doors to the public by the first quarter of 2024 after being closed since 2016.
Various activities ranging from sports, heritage and lifestyle have been lined up for visitors when the iconic 20,000-seating capacity stadium starts operating just beside the world’s second tallest tower, Merdeka 118.
PNB Merdeka Ventures Sdn Bhd (PMVSB) chief executive officer Tengku Ab Aziz Mahmud said the stadium would also be made available for schools and sports clubs to carry out their sporting activities.
“A stadium with a unifying and inclusive theme was what the first prime minister, the late Tunku Abdul Rahman Putra Al-Haj had intended Merdeka Stadium to be for all Malaysians. A location for athletes and school kids in search of a proper running track within the city not far from where they work or live.
“Once reopened, it would also be a venue for sports days and training camps for schools. Football clubs can resume training and friendly matches there too,” he told Bernama after a recent tour of the stadium.
Tengku Ab Aziz said PMVSB also intends to organise heritage walks and daily guided tours for tourists and locals to promote Merdeka Stadium’s role in history as the venue of the declaration of independence for the then Malaya, on Aug 31, 1957.
He added that collaborations with lifestyle and fitness brands for monthly runs, yoga, tai chi or outdoor spin classes, would also bring potential revenue for the stadium.
“We are hopeful that annual Merdeka-themed celebrations via joint activities with nearby venues will boost the use of the stadium and benefit the surrounding community. We are also looking into the possibility of affordable food and beverage pop-ups or cafes,” he said.
Merdeka Stadium was considered the then Federation of Malaya’s engineering marvel when it was built in 1956 and was completed within a year to host the most historical moment when Tunku Abdul Rahman declared the country’s independence on Aug 31, 1957, followed by the formation of Malaysia on Sept 16, 1963.
PMVSB established the Merdeka Heritage Trust (MHT) in 2006 to restore, preserve and manage the stadium.
The restoration to its original structure also included the removal of the covered seating terraces that were built to accommodate an increase in the stadium’s seating capacity to 45,000 people for the 1989 SEA Games. The covered seating terraces were located directly opposite the grandstand.
Leisure and retail attractions
Upon completion of the Merdeka 118 tower, visitors can easily have access to the Merdeka Stadium, as well as to the newly-built Masjid Merdeka, Merdeka Boulevard and Merdeka Textile Museum, all located close to the stadium’s main entrance.
“The public can also enjoy breathtaking views of the city, surrounded by commercial, leisure and retail attractions. The Merdeka 118 precinct will be a key destination for Malaysians as well as international visitors,” he said.
For sports fans, Merdeka Stadium is definitely a memorable venue, having been Harimau Malaya’s strong fort. The stadium was the former host of the annual Merdeka Tournament for over 40 years, since its inception in 1957, as well as other important football matches and friendlies.
Merdeka Stadium also served as the venue for the historic boxing match between “The Greatest” Muhammad Ali and Joe Bugner in 1975.
The stadium had also witnessed a number of concerts by world famous artistes including Michael Jackson, who held two concerts there in 1996, Linkin Park, Mariah Carey, Avril Lavigne, Justin Bieber and Jennifer Lopez.