In these times of economic uncertainty as real estate prices slump and projects fail to take off, the Dubai Sports City (DSC) is not only meeting its targets but is nearing completion with a few tournaments set to take place in the first half of 2009.
The Dh14.7 billion cornerstone project of Dubailand is a 50 million sq ft mixed-use development that is being built around five major sports venues and features an academies campus.
The academies campus will house football, swimming, rugby and hockey academies as well as the ICC Global Cricket Academy, the Butch Harmon School of Golf and the David Lloyd Tennis Academy.
International sporting events are scheduled to take place at the DSC cricket stadia in the first half of 2009 while the WorldHockey Academy will be handed over in March 2009, with the initial focus on delivering the Asia Cup hockey tournament in the first week of May.
The next facility to open will be the Football Academy and ICC Global Cricket Academy towards the end of the second quarter, followed by swimming, rugby and a High Performance Centre.
All academies will begin offering programmes and courses in 2009.
As the dream turns into reality Emirates Business spoke to the managers of the different academies to find out more about the facilities that will soon be ready to use by not only the denizens of Dubai but also by athletes in the region.
Jeff O'Brien, Academies Manager, DSC, said: "The world-class facilities at DSC provide the mechanics and necessary resources to develop athletes of varying disciplines. But the real difference in the DSC Academies Campus is the commitment and skills of the coaches and support teams who provide the services."
The campus has been designed in such a way that all academies are connected and within walking distance of each other to make the integration of each facility for the athletes easy and functional.
"In relation to maximising the advantages of the facilities within the campus, the key is the integration of the coaching services and programs with the latest in video and digital technology for technique evaluation, strength and conditioning, sports science and sports medicine services to round out the offering, making our facilities a sporting solution provider," said O'Brien.
Each of the academies offers something new to the region. For instance, the Butch Harmon School of Golf is using a ground-breaking digital-based software programme that has been specifically developed for golfers as a communication tool for coaches to improve the techniques of golfers of all levels.
According to the DSC when all facilities of the academies campus are taken into consideration, the total cost comes to approximately Dh 500 million. The basis of the DSC's business utilisation model will be participation in grassroots, development and elite-level coaching and training programmes and competitive leagues.
These programmes and activities will be aimed directly at the local community and will create the basis of DSC's business with training camps for individuals and national teams, events and sports education completing the model.
"We are currently finalising our menu of programmes and courses, leagues and tournaments for the local community and international/elite training camps. Each of our product offerings will be priced competitively. There will also be scholarships for deserving athletes," said O'Brien.
As the key to any business venture is to offer a unique range of products and services the DSC's business model is not only to offer sports coaching, events, science and medicine services at all levels of sports, but to engage in the education of all the disciplines which adds to the uniqueness of the vision of its shareholders and business offering.
O'Brien said: "We believe we have a very strong business model which will support the growth of sports within the community and also the development of all levels of sports service professionals within the UAE.
"We expect the majority of our clients to be from within the UAE, while athletes from all over the world will also use the facilities as sport crosses culture, religion, creed and financial boundaries. We intend to focus internally within the UAE in the initial phase of the business development but maintain our global vision for the campus."
As coaches are integral to the success of all sports academies, the DSC has enrolled some of the best international talent. These coaches will share their experience with all those enrolled in the programmes, visiting teams and individuals, and also play a major role in education of other coaches, to expand the talent within the UAE.
O'Brien said: "We have appointed the former Australian test star Rod Marsh to head the ICC Global Cricket Academy."
After retirement, he was coach at the Australian Cricket Academy before become the Director of the England Wales Cricket Board (ECB) National Academy. During that time he helped improve many of the games stars including Kevin Pietersen and Ricky Ponting.
Marsh will be joined by Mudassar Nazar and Dayle Hadlee who have managed academies throughout the world.
The Butch Harmon School of Golf will be run by Butch's son Claude Harmon III, who coached the 2008 US Masters Champion Trevor Immelman, among other tour pros including Darren Clarke and Adam Scott.
Through these partnerships with globally-respected institutions such as the ICC, International Hockey Federation (FIH) and David Lloyd Tennis we will have access to some of the most progressive coaches in the world.
History shows that talent comes from places and people that are at times totally unexpected. So our learning environments will be structured and professional, which will become a haven for nurturing talent in the region and allowing it to develop and grow."