Sports Hub National Stadium

Catch Team Singapore Netball players (from left) Jocelyn Ng, Natalie Long, and Chen Li Li at the OCBC Arena. Image: Seah Kwang Peng

Thirteen years after the idea of a new National Stadium was mooted, the Singapore Sports Hub will throw open its doors on Monday.

A community open house will be held today and tomorrow to give the public a sneak preview. All of the hub’s world-class facilities will be free for use during the open house and remain so until July 31.

Although the 35ha complex, which cost $1.3 billion to build, has already played host to a few ticketed sporting events such as the rugby World Club 10s last weekend, the open house marks the first time the public will get to explore the award-winning project at length.

It won a prestigious Future Projects (Leisure-led Development) award at last year’s World Architecture Festival, considered the Oscars of the architecture world.

This came as sweet news after a slew of problems that plagued the project. It was hit by repeated delays due to rising costs and financing constraints as a result of the 2008 economic crisis.

Construction was scheduled to start in 2007, when the old National Stadium closed officially, but work began only in 2010.

One of the highlights is the free guided tour to the hub’s crown jewel, the new National Stadium, which is usually open only for events. Bookings for the stadium can be done from Tuesday via the hub’s website, www.sportshub.com.sg.

The public can also take a dip in the Olympic-sized swimming pools at OCBC Aquatic Centre, play volleyball at the spacious multi-purpose indoor sports hall OCBC Arena or kayak at the Water Sports Centre. All the sports facilities will start charging fees, which will be announced at a later date, from August.

Mr Oon Jin Teik, chief operating officer of the Sports Hub, welcomes feedback so that his team can fine-tune the venue’s offerings.

“We want to create a bond with Singaporeans. A concrete building comes alive only when there are people using it.”

The open house will kick off with the countdown to the 2015 South-east Asian Games today, culminating in a fireworks and laser show at the waterfront. Tryouts for various sports with equipment and guidance from coaches will be held today and tomorrow.

These are expected to become a regular feature every weekend, as part of the hub’s Experience Sports programme, which aims to encourage people to take part in sports and lets them enjoy world-class facilities for free. Different activities will be offered each weekend.

There are also shopping to be done, restaurants to check out and a library and sports museum to visit. But only a handful of tenants at the Kallang Wave retail mall are expected to be open this weekend. The mall will open in stages in the coming months. The library is open but the museum will be ready only next month.

“The sports hub is also an entertainment and lifestyle hub. It was not built just for a major game, like some of the others which stopped being relevant after the event,” says Mr Oon, referring to some purpose-built sports stadiums in other countries.

“Facilities like the retail mall are designed to draw people, so that even if you don’t care about sports, you can still have a good time here.”

1. TOUR THE STADIUM

Sports Hub guided tours
Get free guided tours of the stadium until July 31. Image: Lau Fook Kong 

Admire the new National Stadium, the centrepiece of the Sports Hub, with a free guided tour next month.

From next Tuesday, the 11/2-hour tour will be available on selected days. Booking is required and a fee, to be revealed later, will be charged from August.

Look out for the stadium’s retractable dome-shaped roof, the largest free- spanning dome roof in the world with a diameter of 312m. It is able to close in about 20 minutes, allowing a match to go on regardless of the weather.

Then there are the 55,000 red-and- white seats, which are designed to trick the eyes into seeing a crowd when there is none. Another notable feature is a ventilation system fuelled by solar energy that pipes cool air to every seat.

The stadium is the only one in the world which can host four different sports – rugby, cricket, football and athletics – in one venue as its seating can be reconfigured. The reconfiguration takes about two days.

The stadium saw its first piece of action last weekend, when it played host to the rugby World Club 10s and attracted about 10,000 fans on each of the two days. Tomorrow, the Singapore Chinese Orchestra will take over the stage for a concert called Our People, Our Music, which is expected to draw a 20,000-strong crowd.

Next up is another concert, by homegrown songbird Stefanie Sun next Saturday, and a friendly match between Italian football club Juventus and Singapore Selection, a mix of Team Singapore athletes and S-league players, on Aug 16.

Surrounded by a 900m-long sheltered space called Sports Promenade, the stadium is also where you can go to jog and cycle.

The old National Stadium opened in 1973, closed in 2007 and was demolished in 2010.

2. ENJOY THE SUN

Sports Hub outdoor sand courts
Outdoor sand courts are free for use but booking is required. 

This weekend, free tryouts for more than six sports will be held along a promenade fronting the Kallang Basin. These include floorball, football and kids’ athletics today, from 4 to 6pm.

Other activities such as frisbee and petanque, a French game where players aim to throw hollow metal balls as close as possible to a small wooden ball, will be available tomorrow, from 9am to 4pm. Equipment is provided and these games will be conducted by coaches.

The Sports Hub aims to make these tryouts a permanent feature on weekends.

The 2015 South-east Asian games countdown will begin at 6pm today along the riverside with a walk-a-jog, to be led by Minister for Culture, Community and Youth Lawrence Wong and Minister in the Prime Minister’s Office Lim Swee Say, who is also labour chief.

Registration has closed but you can enjoy a 30-minute fireworks and laser show at 7.30pm.

There are two sand courts where you can play beach volleyball or other sports such as futsal, rugby and netball. They are free for use even after next month, but booking is required.

Not in the mood for sports? Stroll along Stadium Riverside Walk, a walkway by the river which offers a great view of the city skyline.

3. SWIM

Watch a water polo competition and a synchronised swimming and diving demonstration, all performed by national athletes, at the OCBC Aquatic Centre at the open house tomorrow, from 9am to 4pm.

Or make a splash yourself on other days at one of the two Olympic-sized swimming pools – one for training and the other for competition. If you are a trained diver, make use of the 5m-deep diving pool next to the swimming pools. On non-event days, the pools are open to the public and will be free for use next month. A fee will be charged from August.

The aquatic centre played host to the South-east Asian Swimming Championships, which ended on Tuesday and included water polo and synchronised swimming. The Singapore men’s water polo team beat their Malaysian counterparts 18-5.

The aquatic centre can hold up to 6,000 spectators and matches are broadcast on a giant LED screen.

Team Singapore diver Kimberly Chan, 20, says the centre is better than Toa Payoh Swimming Complex, where her team used to train.

She says: “There are more platforms for diving. We are also not constrained by the weather as the centre is covered. We can train anytime, all day.”

4. PLAY INDOOR SPORTS

Sports Hub OCBC Arena
Catch Team Singapore Netball players (from left) Jocelyn Ng, Natalie Long, and Chen Li Li at the OCBC Arena 

You get to try nine different sports activities at the OCBC Arena, a multi- purpose indoor hall, during the open house tomorrow. These are: badminton, boxing, judo, netball, silat, table tennis, taiji, taekwondo and volleyball. Equipment is provided and coaches will be on hand to offer guidance.

There are six courts, spread over two blocks and two levels, which require prior booking. The arena can fit up to 3,000 people. It hosted the 6th World University Floorball Championship last week, the first time the competition was held outside Europe. The Asian Netball Championship is the next major match scheduled to be held there, from Sept 7 to 14.

Air-conditioning will be turned on for competitions when there is a crowd, but the arena relies on natural ventilation on other days.

Team Singapore netballer Jocelyn Ng, 21, appreciates how the court at the arena is similar to a competition hall. “For example, the upcoming Asian Netball Championship will be held here, so training here will better prepare us for the competition,” she says.

Her teammate Chen Li Li, 23, agrees, adding: “It is also very convenient and accessible by MRT. There are many lifestyle venues where we can hang out for team bonding after training, such as the retail mall.”

The national netball team is currently based at the arena. They used to train at various locations, such as Kallang Netball Centre and in school halls.

5. SHOP, EAT AND BROWSE

Sports hub kallang wave mall
The FairPrice Xtra (above) at the hub will sell sports equipment and organic produce. The Kallang Wave retail mall also houses a rock-climbing wall. Image: Lau Fook Kong

Shop and dine at the 41,000 sq m Kallang Wave retail mall, named after the old National Stadium and the wave-like contours of the mall.

Only a handful of tenants are expected to be operating during the open house this weekend, as the mall will open progressively in the coming months. At press time, SMRT Alpha – a joint venture between the subsidiaries of SMRT and NTUC FairPrice – which operates the mall, was not able to confirm how many and which are the tenants that will be open.

FairPrice Xtra, which will feature a sports theme, is one of the key anchors. NTUC FairPrice spokesman Tan Kian Chew says the hypermart will offer “a good selection of bicycles, sporting equipment, accessories and sportswear” as well as organic produce on top of the usual groceries and household products and appliances.

Foodfare, an air-conditioned 800- seat food court, also operated by NTUC FairPrice, will offer healthier food.

You can also dig into local delights at eateries such as A-One Claypot, Curry Times, My Briyani House and Old Street Bak Kut Teh, as well as international fare at restaurants such as Astons, Issho Izakaya, Manhattan Fish Market, Poulet and Shokudo. Shoppers can head to well-known fashion retailers such as H&M, Uniqlo and Forever 21, which are the other key tenants.

There is also an indoor rock-climbing wall managed by sports company Climb Central. It will open from tomorrow, with free trials at 10am and 1pm. This promotion will continue every weekend next month at 10am, 1 and 4pm. The first 20 patrons, who are required to have climbing experience, also get free entry on weekdays next month. Booking is required and can be done via the company’s website, www.climbcentral.sg. Usual charges range from $14 to $20 per entry, excluding equipment and registration. Adult supervision is required.

There is also a water park called Splash-N-Surf for kids aged up to 12, where there is a water slide called Sting Ray and a Lazy River water ride. It will open next month, with charges to be announced later.

Mr Oon Jin Teik, chief operating officer of the Sports Hub, says he is confident the mall will attract a strong interest even among those who are less active due to its “diverse, inspiring and inclusive experience”.

Opposite the mall is a library and museum, which are both free for Singaporeans and permanent residents.

The Sports Hub Library houses a collection of 80,000 books on sports, health and fitness, while the 2,200 sq m Singapore Sports Museum will showcase the history of sports here, including milestones such as the 2010 Youth Olympic Games.

The library will be up and running during the open house but the museum is expected to launch only next month.

Booking is required for some of the facilities and guided tours. Go to www.sportshub.com.sg or call 6653-8900.

This article was first run in The Straits Times newspaper on June 4, 2014. For similar stories, go to sph.straitstimes.com/premium/singapore. You will not be able to access the Premium section of The Straits Times website unless you are already a subscriber.