Meydan: new centre of world horse racing?

A look at building plans behind the Dubai World Cup's new racing venue.

The architecture of Meydan will be designed with environmental sustainability in mind; racetrack surfaces will be designed by the Joseph H King compan
The architecture of Meydan will be designed with environmental sustainability in mind; racetrack surfaces will be designed by the Joseph H King compan

With the awarding of the first contract to a joint venture of the local Arabtec and Malaysia's WCT Engineering for the construction of the much-talked about racecourse last week, Meydan, the new horseracing city, has finally walked out of the shadows and into the light.

The development, which is the vision of HH Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, UAE prime minister, vice president and ruler of Dubai, will span an area of over 7 million m² and feature dirt and turf tracks, while a world-class grandstand will boast a 55,000 to 60,000 capacity stretching over one kilometre.

Arabtec is currently working on some of the biggest jobs in the region, including the world's tallest tower.

Speaking to Construction Week, Riad Kamal, chairman, Arabtec said: "This is going to be the biggest racecourse in the world.

"Nobody has done a job as large as this anywhere else. We are experienced [in this field], having already built the grandstand in Ghantoot, Abu Dhabi."

Arabtec is currently working on some of the biggest jobs in the region, including the world's tallest tower - Burj Dubai - and the US $1.6 billion Al Waab City in Qatar.

Kamal added that the new racecourse will replace Dubai World Cup's old home, the Nad Al Sheba racecourse. "Work has begun and the clock is already ticking for us. We have a 24-month timeframe, so completion is expected in September 2009," he said.

"This is only the first phase of the Meydan project and I'm sure consequent packages will be awarded over the next few years," he added.

The first phase of the project includes the construction of the new racecourse and grandstand, an administration building, a 400-bedroom five-star hotel, more than 10 restaurants, the relocation of the Godolphin Gallery, the home of the Dubai Racing Club, a museum, as well as covered car parking for 10,000 and a 4km canal, which will run from Dubai Creek to the racecourse.

The grandstand will also serve during the off-season as a major dining, business and conference facility. The target opening date is for the 2010 Dubai World Cup, with prize money for the showpiece race set to almost double, and be worth approximately $10 million compared with the current $6 million.


Dubai Racing Club chairman, Saeed Al Tayer said: "We received the green light at the Dubai World Cup meeting last year to develop the vision of His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, and we are proud to reveal that to the whole world. We wanted to develop a world-class facility and I cannot think of any other racecourse in the world that will rival it.

"As we are setting the benchmark in terms of world-class facilities, we want to complement that with an increased prize-money of $10 million, to continue to entice the best horses in the world for the opening of Meydan for the 2010 Dubai World Cup."

Meydan Racecourse and Meydan City has been designed by Malaysian architect, TAK. "The design as you approach the track is of a falcon and is the most challenging architectural feat to date, especially considering the project is to be completed within 24 months," said Teo A Khing, managing director of TAK.

"The racing facility will not just be for the season. It can stage conferences, concerts, functions, and carry on during off-season. It will be a tourist attraction as well as a business community. The project prides itself on comfort for foreign visitors and for the horses, which includes the tunnels for the horses and the underground car park, which is actually situated under the fountain.

"The architecture also includes designs for sustainable energy. We want to show that horse racing can care for environmental issues," he added.

The racetrack surfaces are designed by the Joseph H King company, which has been involved in the design and construction of the dirt tracks and turf courses at most major racing facilities in North America since the 1980s.

Dubai Racing Club CEO Frank Gabriel Jr said: "We have taken into account feedback from all aspects of the industry - racegoers, trainers, jockeys, our partners, sponsors, other racecourses, everyone - in making this racecourse the magnificent development it will be.

"The racing season will carry on as normal up until the target date, as the grandstand can be completed without affecting the action at Nad Al Sheba."

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