Thursday 8 August 2019

Kallang velodrome, hotel among 15 recommendations to boost sports industry

Plan to transform Kallang into vibrant precinct by 2025
Up to 30m visitors a year being targeted; six developments including velodrome on cards
By Low Lin Fhoong, Assistant Sports Editor, The Straits Times, 7 Aug 2019

The area around Kallang is set to be further enhanced as a destination for sport and world-class entertainment after Sport Singapore (SportSG) yesterday announced plans to develop the precinct by 2025.

In a bid to inject vibrancy into the area, six developments will be built to complement the $1.33 billion Singapore Sports Hub, which includes the 55,000-seater National Stadium, OCBC Aquatic Centre and Singapore Indoor Stadium.

In a first for Singapore, a velodrome looks set to be built to cater to the community and serve as the national training centre for track cycling. The indoor track would be part of the Youth Hub, which would be developed with the National Youth Sports Institute and include spaces for non-traditional sports like speed climbing and parkour.

The other five are the Kallang Football Hub, Singapore Tennis Centre, Benaan Kapal Green, Alive Gateway and Loop, and a redevelopment of the Kallang Theatre. The entire project is called Kallang Alive.

Located at the Kallang field, the football hub will house the national training centre and ActiveSG Football Academy.

The new tennis facility, which will have open and sheltered courts, will also function as the national training centre and ActiveSG Academy.

The iconic Kallang Theatre and its adjoining areas will be redeveloped into an integrated sport, entertainment and lifestyle centre. Among the ideas proposed for the facility are a multi-purpose arena capable of hosting e-sports events, a themed hotel and an international sports medicine centre.

While SportSG declined to reveal the project's cost, chief executive officer Lim Teck Yin said that development would be carried out in phases and be completed in five to six years' time.

The Kallang area attracts 12 million visitors annually, and SportSG deputy chief executive Chiang Hock Woon said that it is targeting up to 30 million visitors when the project is completed.

"As part of the Urban Redevelopment Authority Masterplan, Kallang Alive is a very exciting opportunity for us to reimagine what the space can be and it's important that we create an environment where different segments of the population can enjoy the space, in particular our youth," he said at the Vision 2030 review yesterday.

SportSG is completing a feasibility study for the velodrome and Mr Lim pointed out that there is increased interest in cycling here, adding that building it "isn't as expensive an endeavour if we size it the right way".

For example, the 6,000-seater London Velopark - which hosted the 2012 Olympic Games - cost £105 million (S$176.6 million). But Malaysia built one in Nilai in Putra Jaya in 2017 for a fraction of the cost, at RM80 million (S$26.4 million).

Addressing concerns that the facility could be underutilised, Mr Lim said space in the velodrome could be "optimised" for community activities and programmes. For example, bike rentals could be provided for those keen to try their hand at track cycling, he said.

Agreeing, Singapore Cycling Federation president Hing Siong Chen pointed to the success of some overseas velodromes that function as multi-use sports halls for netball, futsal and indoor archery.

Dr Hing said: "Gone are the days when you build a stadium for one sport. It can also be used by other national sports associations and that way, there can be shared costs and time as well."

National cyclist Calvin Sim was "super happy" to hear news about the velodrome. The 29-year-old, who won gold in the men's omnium at the 2017 SEA Games, spends about nine months a year training and competing in Australia, Malaysia and Thailand.

"The sport, and not just the high-performance aspects, will benefit and kids can now try cycling in a safe place as Singapore (roads) can get quite congested," he said.

While the Kallang Alive project will give a boost to some sports, others are not as happy. Archery, cricket, softball and baseball have already moved out of the Kallang field to make way for the football hub, while netball and squash have to vacate their current sites eventually. Netball Singapore will move to Bedok before relocating to Toa Payoh permanently, while a location is being finalised for squash.

Singapore Squash Rackets Association president Woffles Wu said: "We have our squash centre there, where everyone has come to know and love. The good courts are all in Kallang... If you get rid of these courts, where will people go?"

Kallang Alive is part of SportSG's 15 recommendations for Vision 2030, the national sports blueprint announced in 2012. The new recommendations are the result of a year-long review to ensure it remains relevant to the changing needs and demands of Singaporeans.

Additional reporting by Jeremy Lim

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