DSC ready to brave the storm

Al Zarooni poses with Man Utd great Sir Bobby Charlton. (PATRICK CASTILLO) 

Khalid Al Zarooni, president of Dubai Sports City, is confident the emirate's $4 billion (Dh14.68bn) project has positioned itself perfectly to weather the storm of the current economic downturn.

Several stadiums and academies incorporated into the "world's first purpose-built sports city" are set to open their gates this year, and Al Zarooni says everything is on schedule.

"Of course, everybody is aware there is an economic crisis, nobody is denying that and everybody is adjusting to it," he said.

"But luckily, Dubai Sports City has done a lot of its development already so I would say we are away from the storm – but we are adjusting for the future."

Last April, DSC opened the Ernie Els-designed Els Club and last month saw the Butch Harmon School of Golf welcome its first visitors. Next on the agenda is the 25,000-seater cricket stadium, which is slated to open in the second quarter of this year and is expected to host the Pakistan national team for One Day Internationals and Twenty20 events.

"We will be announcing the games and schedule for the stadium shortly," said Al Zarooni. "Probably in the next six months.

"We are creating the infrastructure for sport in Dubai and the UAE. We want to put UAE and Dubai on the world map for sport by having world class venues, not only from a spectators point of view.

"We also want to take learning academies and training facilities to the next level and give people direction to excel in the field of sports that they are interested in."

This year will see the Manchester United Soccer School, the International Cricket Council Academy and swimming and rugby academies all open, while a 5,000-capacity field hockey stadium is also slated for 2009.

"Of course, there is nothing like sports and having some of the biggest names in the world with us, we are very passionate about it. We put personal efforts into it and we are excited by all the projects," Al Zarooni told Emirates Business.

In terms of real estate, the company president also confirmed that 30 residential villas at the Els Club's Victory Heights project have been handed over to owners, with hand-overs continuing throughout the year. In terms of sales, Al Zarooni said 85 per cent of the homes are sold.

Other projects in the pipeline at Sports City include a 60,000-capacity outdoor stadium, a 10,000-seater indoor stadium and the DSC Swimming Academy, which will incorporate two separate Olympic sized swimming pools.