THE official commencement of upgrade works at the National Stadium started yesterday with Prime Minister Commodore Voreqe Bainimarama laying the foundation.
The stadium was built in 1979 at a cost of $3.5 million and since then, no major upgrade works had taken place.
The Fiji Sports Council has secured a commercial loan of $15 million from ANZ Bank, with a $3 million annual grant by the government for the next five years.
The upgrade will see a new, state of the art rubber track, an international standard playing field, new light towers, extended seating capacity and Buckhurst and Bidesi parks will have three playing grounds, new changing rooms, a small seating grandstand and a 100-metre artificial running track for training.
Commodore Bainimarama said the new-look facility would better Fiji's position to host regional and international sporting tournaments.
"This will help encourage sports tourism, contribute towards Fiji's economy and boost Fiji's global presence," Commodore Bainimarama said.
"It can also lead to related infrastructure development, and can provide new opportunities for public-private collaboration," he said.
He said sport was important to all Fijians and athletes should be provided the best possible facilities to enable them to compete on the international stage.
Fiji Sports Council chairman Peter Mazey said Fiji needed an international stadium.
"We know this will benefit Fiji — not just the sporting community but everyone will benefit from the events held at this national facility," Mr Mazey said.
Upgrade works are expected to be completed by March next year.