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Sat 17 Feb 2007 12:00 AM

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Howzat: Sports City clears first boundary

Infrastructure work on Dubai Sports City is now 85% complete.

Not content to generate one city at breathtaking speed, Dubai has set its sights on a host of others. Peruse any map of the emirate and your eyes will invariably spot the word ‘city' in numerous locations, with prefixes ranging from Healthcare, Motor, Academic and Sports. Neatly illustrating the extent of Dubai's vision, Dubai Sports City is nestled in one corner of Dubailand - a 278,000m
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concept development with the long-term goal of attracting 15 million people to the city by 2010 - and is to be the world's first integrated sports city.

Formally launched in March 2004 as a cornerstone project of Dubailand, Dubai Sports City will span 4.6 million m
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when complete, at a cost of US $3 billion (AED11 billion). The city will comprise four state-of-the-art stadia: a 60,000-seat multi-purpose stadium for rugby, football and track and field, a 25,000-seat dedicated cricket stadium, which is expandable to 30,000, along with an indoor arena that will accommodate 10,000, and a field-hockey stadium for 5,000.

The project will also feature an Ernie Els-designed golf course, the world's first purpose-built Manchester United Soccer Schools facility, the International Cricket Council's (ICC) Global Cricket Academy, a David Lloyd Tennis Academy, the first Butch Harmon School of Golf outside the US, and residential areas.

The first phase, scheduled for completion by the end of 2007, will include the golf course, sports academies and the opening phase of the Victory Heights residential community. Once completed in 2010, the development will have an estimated population of 70,000.

Work has already begun on the $82 million cricket stadium, developed through a joint-venture team, Alpine-Belbadi, and is scheduled for completion in December 2007.

According to Vasil Mingovski, construction manager, Dubai Sports City, a unique approach of combining both precast and in-situ techniques is being used to speed up construction of the cricket stadium.

A joint venture of Arabtec and Max Bogl has picked up the main contract for the multipurpose stadium, which will feature a unique roof structure based on the traditional Arabic tent.

Early in 2006, Wade Adams was awarded the $123 million infrastructure contract, which is the largest private sector infrastructure package to be awarded for a local development in the UAE. Mingovski adds that when built, Dubai Sports City will include 25km of road and 1.2km of canal within the site, 120km of telecommunications multiple ducts, 87km of electrical cable and 54km of sewerage mains.

And in late January, TransEmirates Contracting was awarded the $98 million contract for the Academies area of the project, which includes the Manchester United Soccer School. The area, which is located in the south-east corner of Dubai Sports City, also includes the World Hockey Academy, a rugby training facility, a 2,500m
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gymnasium, an Olympic-sized swimming pool and accommodation for up to 524 people. Construction of the Academies is scheduled to be completed in April 2008.

Manipulating such a range of land-uses isn't a simple task, as Mohammed Shariff, project coordinator, Dubai Sports City explains, especially as design changes on any scale have a knock-on effect to the masterplan.

"We faced a lot of obstacles that delayed us for some time," he says. "After submitting the masterplan to Dubai Municipality, the size of the stadium was increased from 25,000 to 60,000 seats. This came with some setbacks because we have to provide 10,000 parking spaces for such a big stadium - and at the time we had designed everything already."

As a result, the traffic impact study (TIS) was reassessed to ensure that the flow of vehicles remained feasible and the revised masterplan (which was drawn up by Parsons International) was resubmitted to DM.

From this, Shariff says initial approval for internal roads was received and the Roads and Transport Authority (RTA) is still assessing the TIS report with regards to the external roads.

Shariff adds that this increased judiciousness is due to the proximity of Dubai Sports City to other projects in Dubailand, and that it is therefore imperative that the roads comply with the RTA guidelines.

On a site of such magnitude, it is obvious that a clear direction is necessary to overcome potential logistics, as Shariff points out: "We are not just building stadiums, we are building a city. We are building four stadiums, 136 towers and we will have almost 950 villas in the golf course area."

So how, therefore, is it possible to oversee every aspect of the project? Shariff explains that project management is divided into categories.

"There are Dubai Sports City projects, which have been developed themselves - that includes the stadiums, shopping mall and houses, which will be run by Dubai Sports City."

In contrast, the 136 towers will be developed by private investors, which are responsible for their construction but do not have total autonomy.

"We just oversee them," adds Shariff. "They come up with their own designs but they have to be approved by us and comply with our guidelines."

The main criterion, according to Shariff, is that the floor area ratio - the gross floor area of all buildings permitted on a single plot - conforms and does not exceed the stated figure for the built-up area.

The main challenge now, according to Shariff, is to balance the surge of activity that will be unfolding on the site as a rash of private developers have received approval and want to start construction, resulting in a flurry of activity as numerous contractors appear and mobilisation of various sites begin.

"But they won't be allowed to start building until they get their Municipality building permits, which they are doing now," says Shariff, who adds that there is a well-tailored programme in place to deal with the increased activity.

With one eye on growing demands for a more sustainable development, Dubai Sports City announced late last year it had awarded Hyder Consulting and Eagle Electromechanical contracts to design, build and install a sewage treatment plant (STP). The STP is being built with the latest membrane bio-reactor technology, which produces high quality effluent with a reduced footprint compared to other treatment processes. It will treat wastewater generated at the development and recycle the high quality effluent for irrigation of the landscape for the entire development. The contract is worth $16 million and is estimated to take just over 15 months.

What is clear is that when completed, Dubai Sports City will be uniquely placed to offer a community lifestyle with an emphasis on sport and sporting education that is hard to imagine existing anywhere else in the world. Not only this, but it also demonstrates that Dubai not only offers tourists a certain lifestyle but is ensuring that, for those living or planning a life in the emirate, all facets of a modern society are catered for.

“After submitting the masterplan to Dubai Municipality, the size of the stadium was increased from 25,000 to 60,000 seats.” - Mohammed Shariff, project coordinator, Dubai Sports City.

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