Dubai company to build network of sports centers in Saudi

Saudi Arabia is looking to develop leisure and entertainment facilities in the kingdom as part of its Vision 2030 plan aimed at diversifying the economy. It has a target for the amount of money that Saudi households spend on recreation to double by 2030 – to 6 percent.

Irshad Salim — A Dubai-based sports and outdoor entertainment company will this month break ground on the first in a series of new privately-owned football sports complexes in Jeddah.

Duplays co-founder Ravi Bhusari said the first center in northern Jeddah being built on fast-track model will “be finished before the end of the year”, report Zawya, part of Thomson Reuters Middle East.

“The type of construction we are using is a modular construction and they are quick-build facilities,” said Bhusari. This will be followed by two more pilot projects in Riyadh and in the Eastern Province which, if successful, will facilitate a rapid rollout across the kingdom.

Bhusari said his ambition is to rollout 50 centers in five years – “not just because it sounds nice, but because I think it’s achievable”.

“But maybe 30 in five might be a little more achievable. PowerLeague has around 49 centers. Goals has around the same or slightly more. It’s taken them ten years or so to build those, but Saudi is a new market, we do have a great local partner in Al Hokair [and] Duplays brings its own humble experience.

“We’ll see. But I’m sure that every large city or every secondary city in Saudi could use or probably would want a sport facility like the one we envision.”

Bhusari said the center has been modelled on the ‘soccer centers’ concept developed in the United Kingdom by companies such as Goals and PowerLeague. The company will rent pitches to groups of friends who want to play each other, but would also run more formal leagues with referees, kits and schedules for groups and individuals who want to take part in competitions.

Duplays will also run Ronaldinho Soccer Academies from the centers.

The company, which currently organizes and runs corporate and private sports tournaments across the emirates, has formed a joint venture company with Saudi-based developer Al Hokair Group to build the 3 pilot projects in the Kingdom.

Saudi Arabia is looking to develop sports, leisure and entertainment facilities in the kingdom as part of its Vision 2030 plan aimed at diversifying the economy and encouraging Saudis to play more sports. It has a target for the amount of money that Saudi households spend on recreation to double by 2030 – to 6 percent.

New projects include a major new Red Sea resort spread over 50 islands and the new 334 sq km area Entertainment City near Riyadh featuring a theme park by United States-based Six Flags Entertainment Corporation in public-private partnership with the Kingdom’s Public Investment Fund (PIF).

“There is a lot of local demand for many services — particularly in tourism and entertainment,” said Ajhed Almihdar, a senior analyst at property consultancy JLL— a view upheld by several other analysts in the region and worldwide.

The kingdom has a growing demand for entertainment, as more than 50 percent of its 32.6 million residents are currently under 25, but entertainment options are now mainly limited to shopping, cafes and children’s arcades.

To facilitate much of sports, tourism and leisure development in the Kingdom, the government is relaxing rules on entertainment.

Over the past year, concerts, dance shows and film screening have reappeared in Saudi for the first time in over 30 years, with the aim of growing this sector to over 6pc of GDP which in 2016 was $646.4 billion. This translates into a $39 billion plus sector — largest in the MENA region.

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