Armed with a safety helmet and sturdy boots, a group of media personnel marched into a busy and noisy construction area of the almost-completed Singapore Sports Hub, located on a sprawling 35-hectare area in Kallang.
It did not take too long before the discomfort and uneasiness were forgotten as awe and admiration overwhelmed us.
The state-of-the-art Sports Hub will be the envy of the world when it opens in June this year. It is set to host several main events like the WTA Championships in October and the SEA Games next year.
Using a portable loud hailer, Mark Collins, the managing director of Singapore Sports Hub, gave the media group a tour of the S$1.37bil (RM3.6bil) venue.
Indeed, the hub is hip.
Its masterpiece will be the 55,000-seat National Stadium that provides spectacular views of the waterfront and the Singapore city skyline.
And when it is completed, it will have the largest free-spanning domed roof in the world.
Its retractable seating capability allows for flexible movement inside the stadium bowl, making it the only stadium in the world which will be able to host football, athletics, rugby and cricket, as well as concerts in one venue.
“We have taken into consideration the hot weather in Singapore and installed energy-efficient cooling technology, where cool air will be pumped from underneath the seats, making it one of a few carbon-neutral stadiums ever built,” said Collins, assuring that the comfort of spectators would not be compromised.
The other facilities inside the hub include a 6,000-capacity indoor Aquatic Centre that meets world tournament standards; a 3,000-capacity Multi-Purpose Indoor Arena; and a water sports centre featuring dragon boating, kayaking and canoeing at the Kallang basin.
It also boasts the iconic Singapore Indoor Stadium with its unique design that features an eye-catching roof that reflects the traditional Asian culture.
“The two sides of the futuristic roof structure join at the centre to form the Chinese character for the lucky number eight,” said Collins with a smile, knowing this would be a crowd-pleaser.
Then, there is a 41,000 square foot retail and waterfront area and the Sports Museum and Sports Library.
Overall, the Sports Hub is indeed amazing and is well connected to the Mass Rapid Transit network and to major roads to provide easy access for the public.
But what is more amazing is its well-thought out plan for the future – how it will be integrated with the lifestyle of the people around and how the Republic plans to maintain this huge place.
For a start, the Sports Hub is not an exclusive place for elite athletes. It will be open to the public daily – 24/7.
“Daily community facilities and activities will be open to all Singaporeans, including the hard courts for volleyball and basketball, lawn bowls, skate park, climbing wall, and the running and cycling circuits,” he said.
“We are targeting all demographics – from elite athletes to the general public. Ultimately, the hub should be a space where Singaporeans can play sports, attend a concert, have dinner with their families by the waterfront, or visit the sports museum and library with their children over the weekend.
“There is something for everyone.”
When asked how they will sustain the place and manage the wear and tear with a projection that the hub will be actively used, Collins said: “It is a commitment and obligation that we intend to honour and keep.”
“When we bid for this project (in 2006), it was my company’s agreement with the government that we would be responsible for the cost from the utilisation of this place. The government does not share the risk of maintaining this place and if we get the formula wrong, we are going to pay hell from our pockets.
“But our company has been doing this for 50 years and we are experienced. If the level of utilisation exceeds, then we are on the right track.
More people means more revenue and we will channel it back into maintaining the life cycle of this place.”
The Sports Hub is the result of a 25-year Public-Private-Partnership (PPP) agreement between the Singapore Sports Council and SportsHub Pte Ltd, and any partners they manage to get.
So far, Sports Hub has managed to get many sponsors as their partners; the biggest is probably the OCBC Group, who have signed a 15-year agreement.
When everything is done and dusted, the Sports Hub is set to be a leading destination in the region for sports and entertainment and will no doubt be the crown jewel in Asia.