“It’s the best project in Dubai”

U Balasubramaniam and Khalid Al Zarooni, CEO and president of Dubai Sports City, want to deliver the best real estate project in Dubai and make you more healthy.

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By  David Ingham Published  June 2, 2004

|~|bala.jpg|~|U Balasubramaniam and Khalid Al Zarooni: keeping Dubai's sedentary population healthy.|~|Dubai Sports City, one of several projects taking place within the boundaries of Dubailand, is being positioned as a development with a difference. Out of the 50 million square feet available for development, only 60% will be built up, with the remaining 40% left for a golf course and landscaping purposes. The overall aim, as U Balasubramaniam, CEO, and Khalid Al Zarooni, president, explain, is to create a city within a city, all built around the theme of healthy living. Asked to sum it all up, Al Zarooni says, “It’s the best project in Dubai.” His belief is that the consumer, with ever more freehold projects on offer, is becoming more discerning and more demanding. “I think there’s a need for a project like this in Dubai,” Al Zarooni says. “It’s not like two years ago when people would just line up outside any project waiting to buy. What they want today is a healthy environment where their children can grow up.” Dubai Sports City, whose development cost is pegged at Dhs7 billion, will consist of two main elements, the sporting facilities and the residential area. On the sporting side, there are four stadiums planned: one for cricket, an outdoor multi-purpose site for rugby, football and track & field, an indoor multi-purpose stadium and a dedicated hockey facility. Complementing these big match venues, there will be comprehensive training facilities plus various sports schools and a specialist sports hospital. A Manchester United football academy, David Lloyd tennis school and Butch Harmon golf academy have already been announced and a deal to create a Global Cricket Academy is in the pipeline. On the residential side, Al Zarooni is promising something “very different” from existing projects in Dubai. Up to 1200 family villas are to be built around an 18 hole championship golf course, which will carry the name of Ernie Els. Plots of land will be sold to third party investors for the construction of high rise buildings, which will be no more than 15 storeys high. All of these residential units, along with schools, shopping malls and other community facilities, will be located in a heavily landscaped setting featuring bicycle and jogging tracks. Restrictions will be placed on the movement of cars and Bala promises that Dubai Sports City is going to be “buggy friendly.” The total cost of the project, whose development period is pencilled in at eight years, is expected be Dhs7 billion. The three partners in the project — Abdul Rahim Al Zarooni, Abdulrahman Bukhatir and Abdul Rahman Falaknaz — plan to cover 70% of the funding from a combination of their own cash reserves and the investments made by third parties in individual projects. The remaining 30% will be raised through the financial markets. As for making all this pay, the sale of residential units will yield a major chunk of revenue. Ongoing income will come from operation of the various clubs and academies within the development and the hosting of major sporting events. Event revenue is derived from a whole host of sources, including sponsorship, corporate hospitality, ticketing and TV rights. As to what events Dubai Sports City might hold, no formal announcements have yet been made. Bala says that sporting calendars tend to be planned two years ahead, so with the stadiums scheduled for completion in 2007/8, bidding for events will begin next year. Al Zarooni expects to see a combination of international events coming to Dubai and entirely new ones being created. Dubai is, of course, expected to bid for the 2016 Olympics and Dubai Sports City would be an obvious location to host events. The Cricket World Cup is also seen as a strong candidate to come to Dubai. Back on Planet Earth, Dubai Sports City aims to host at least one sizeable event each month outside of the hot summer period. “We’ve picked sports where we believe there is potential for revenue generation on an international basis,” says Bala. One thing that Bala and Al Zarooni continually stressed in our interview is that as a residential development, Dubai Sports City will be a unique, high quality project. The three partners, they say, are all experienced in the real estate business and intend to deliver something a little bit different to the market. “It’s very important in our project that we keep our promises,” says Al Zarooni. “What we promise is what you’re going to get.” Al Zarooni also doesn’t feel that Dubailand may be one project too many for the city. “Just look at the airport, the infrastructure, all the hotels coming up. You don’t need to look at any figures. Dubai is growing very fast and we have to take advantage of that.”||**||

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