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Thu 19 Jul 2007 02:46 PM

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Hot seat: Mr U. Balasubramaniam

The Dubai Sports City project is not just a sports development, but an entire new city.

Dubai Sports City continues to rise out of the sands at lightning speed, with the championship golf course set for completion by the end of the year, the 25,000 capacity cricket stadium scheduled to open early next year and the various academies ready for business by autumn 2008. But, according to Dubai Sports City CEO, U. Balasubramaniam (known as Bala), what many people don't realise is that it's not just a sports development - it's going to be an entire new city. Becky Lucas visited their buzzing HQ to find out the latest.

Are you on track in terms of completion dates?

Everything is set to be ready according to our programme. And when I say ready, I'm talking about when each facility can actually be utilised. A temporary clubhouse will enable people to play golf by the end of the year, despite the construction activities that will continue around it. The indoor stadium should be ready by mid to end of 2009; the big stadium by 2010. The canal should be completed by mid 2009. Most of the villas will be ready by the end of 2009. The project in its entirety will be completed by 2010.

You've got football, cricket, golf, hockey and tennis academies. Why these particular sports?

We studied the current population and found the biggest demand for them. We're also considering a rugby academy - if not a permanent one, at least one on a short-term basis. We already have a pitch and a UAE rugby association. We're also seriously considering a swimming academy. You might ask about games like basketball, softball and baseball, but I don't think the demand for a permanent academy is great enough for these yet. We can run shorter academy courses when professionals in these sports stop over, and if a need for an academy in another sport develops, we'll react to it.

Why choose Manchester United, Butch Harman and David Lloyd as figureheads for the acadamies?

We could either go through the learning curve of running a sports academy ourselves, which would take a long time, or get involved with the best in the business straight away. The motto of Dubai Sports City has always been to have the ‘best of breed in business.' Manchester United go around and pick out the kids they want to train. That kind of philosophy suited us. With tennis, David Lloyd was one of the few schools that wasn't a franchise. We wanted direct involvement, so that made sense. Then in golf there are only two great academies: the David Leadbetter and the Butch Harman School in Las Vegas. Again, Leadbetter was a franchise.

How are residential sales going?

The 600 Phase One Victory Heights villas all sold out at the beginning of the year. We have another 370 to sell, which comes to over 900 villas. Other than that, there are 150-odd commercial and residential towers and probably only 10 plots left.

Who's buying them?

Victory Heights has not followed the normal Dubai pattern - normally new properties are bought up by Iranian and subcontinental nationals, people with UK and US passports, GCC nationals and a few other expats. Three or four towers were bought by Irish developers, three by Italians, and five or six by Germans. It's going to be a very cosmopolitan society. It really proves that sport has no barriers, no culture and no religion - it is probably the most unifying factor for anything in the world.

Have you used influences from any other city around the globe?

I believe the nearest to it is somewhere like Carson City in the US, but on a smaller scale. Sport as a lifestyle is a unique concept. We were surprised to have sport icons say they'd never heard of anything like this before.

How is the outdoor stadium going to combat the heat of summer?

It is an outdoor stadium. There's no denying that. Most of the games will have to take place between October and May. Having said that, we are all making a big thing out of this heat. Anywhere else in the world the cold is always a factor, and places have to shut for two or three months during the winter.

How much will DSC be worth?

In its entirety, the development will be worth US$3.7billion [Dhs13.5billion].

Does that make it the most valuable ‘city' in Dubai?

The biggest in the private sector, yes. DSC is a mix of everything - academies, stadiums, malls. It's going to be huge.

Which sports do you play?

I play golf and tennis and I follow golf, tennis, rugby, cricket and soccer. I'm not an athlete, but I'm an avid enthusiast and amateur sportsman.

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