The 30,000-seater stadium was built during the era of former President Daniel Toroitich arap Moi, and christened Nyayo, which was a nickname given to him after declaring he would follow in the footsteps of his predecessor Mzee Jomo Kenyatta.
In an interview with the publication, the ex-minister expressed no regrets at cancelling a deal worth Ksh118 million, that would have resulted in the renaming of the Nyayo Stadium to the Coca Cola Stadium in 2009, for a three year period.
Sambili, then a Member of Parliament for Mogotio Constituency, was in charge of the Ministry of Sports when Coca Cola fronted a proposal to acquire the naming rights of the facility from the Sports Stadia Management Board (SSMB) in 2009.
She directed the board to abort the agreement, even after the then Joe Aketch-chaired SSMB had signed the deal with the global beverage manufacturer.
When she had attended former President Moi’s funeral service at the stadium on Tuesday, February 12, Sambili stated that she was happy with the intervention she made on the stadium 10 years ago.
“I’m glad I was there to stop the deal. I understood then that it bore a huge commercial value to SSMB and the revenue would have helped in various ways but facilities like Nyayo Stadium have more than commercial values attached to them,” Sambili stated.
“It carries very significant heritage value to the people of Kenya and with hindsight, a lot of people now agree with me that I did the right thing,” she added.
Built in 1983, the stadium was initially constructed for athletics but expanded to accommodate several other sports; football, basketball and swimming.
“I would do it again if somebody tried to commercialise a facility like Nyayo Stadium. There are no regrets at all from me,” Sambili reiterated.
“Imagine if we had such events at a stadium bearing a commercial name rather than then cultural name Kenyans cherish,” she posed.
Nyayo stadium was closed in 2017 to allow for renovations.
As of early 2020, it was reported that the facility was 75 per cent completed, but the demise of the former head of state and the resolve to hold his funeral service at Nyayo, rather than Kasarani Stadium, made work hastened ready in time for the service that was held there on Tuesday, February 11.