KUALA LUMPUR, Aug 4 — While the Merdeka 118 project in the heart of Kuala Lumpur is better known for its 118-storey skyscraper that will be the tallest tower in South-east Asia, it is also where the historic Stadium Merdeka is located.
With the project taking up 40 acres, Stadium Merdeka and Stadium Negara occupy up to half of the land here. These two heritage stadiums have not been torn down, but are instead being conserved by project developer PNB Merdeka Ventures Sdn Bhd.
Gazetted as a national heritage site on October 17, 2005, Stadium Merdeka is owned by PNB Merdeka Ventures, but comes under the trusteeship and management of the Merdeka Heritage Trust.
Tengku Datuk Ab Aziz Tengku Mahmud, CEO of PNB Merdeka Ventures, today explained to reporters what the company had done to conserve Stadium Merdeka, which was where Malaysia’s first prime minister Tunku Abdul Rahman had made the declaration of independence for then-Malaya and shouted “Merdeka” on August 31, 1957.
Tengku Ab Aziz said Stadium Merdeka was also where the 1975 boxing match between Muhammad Ali and Joe Bugner took place, and where Malaysia played against South Korea in the Olympic qualifying match for football in 1980. It was also where Michael Jackson held his HIStory World Tour concert in 1996.
Tengku Ab Aziz today listed how the developer lovingly restored Stadium Merdeka to reflect the “look and feel of 1957”, including changing the seating capacity back from 45,000 to 20,000 by removing a second tier of seats that were added on in later years.
The seats have also been reverted to wooden benches, while the floor tiles have been changed back to small mosaics, as well as the original turnstiles, with the awnings changed to a black-and-red-and-white colour combination from its former look.
The scoreboard at Stadium Merdeka has also been restored to one that is not digital and showing the emblems of the different states in Malaysia, just like how an “old postcard” would look like, Tengku Ab Aziz said.
Instead of being just another venue for concerts, there are plans to reactivate Stadium Merdeka for wider public use.
Tengku Ab Aziz said possible plans for Stadium Merdeka include opening it up in the future for football workshops, cinema nights, and pop-up cafes.
He also said the developer has applied to the National Heritage Department to install a running track in Stadium Merdeka, which is permissible as it is not permanent and can always be removed and would not clash with the aim of conserving the stadium.
On a visit to Stadium Merdeka today, a podium or box where royal guests and dignitaries sat during the 1957 Merdeka proclamation could be seen, while the walls inside the stadium’s entrance were decorated with murals featuring historic photos alongside a display of historical facts.
The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (Unesco) in 2008 recognised the restoration works on Stadium Merdeka by awarding it an award of excellence in the 2008 UnescoAsia-Pacific Heritage Awards for Culture Heritage Conservation.
As part of the Merdeka 118 project, visitors will be able to freely access Stadium Merdeka by walking across a park to the Merdeka 118 tower. The Merdeka 118 tower will feature a seven-storey shopping mall, office spaces, the luxury hotel Park Hyatt hotel as well as the highest observation deck in South-east Asia known as “The View at 118” .
The park connecting Stadium Merdeka to the tower is a four-acre linear park with landscaped greenery, known as the “Merdeka Boulevard at 118” .
Tengku Ab Aziz said the park will have water features where children can play and with changing rooms available after they have a fun splash. The water features will be level with the ground instead of being ponds, as it would then enable a maximum 20,000 people to walk across when the water feature is turned off.