Zayed Sports City in the United Arab Emirates is home to four major sporting facilities designed to host a wide range of sporting events and teams.
Like La Manga Club, the weather at Zayed Sports City is a key attraction for visitors from around the world, although the majority of those who travel to the complex are relatively local, according to general manager Barry Bremner.
“While it can be hot in the summer months, I believe that Abu Dhabi is very attractive to international visitors,” Bremner told SportBusiness International. “Its location between Europe and Asia means that the flight time is not too long, and for eight months of the year it has the perfect climate for training.
“The population is very multicultural, hotels and transportation are of the highest quality and many of the famous visitors we have within Zayed Sports City appreciate the anonymity that this part of the world offers.
“Geographically, the majority of visitors to Zayed Sports City are residents of the UAE, particularly from Abu Dhabi.
“While there are many great events that attract crowds from around the world, the crux of our business is as a venue for the community and it follows that our daily customer base is almost entirely living in the area. Without the local community we would not have a purpose.”
Twenty-eight different sports can be hosted at Zayed Sports City, which has welcomed national football teams from all over the world, including Germany, Ivory Coast, England, Russia and the US.
Those who have returned to the complex will have witnessed significant changes over the years. The Zayed Sports City Stadium was the first venue to open in 1979 followed by training pitches in 1982, an Olympic-sized ice rink in 1987, a 40-lane bowling centre in 1999 and a tennis centre in 2005.
The latest additions to the complex include the Haddins Fitness Centre, padel tennis and new rugby pitches in 2010 followed by basketball, netball and billiards facilities in 2012. Beach tennis, volleyball, softball facilities and ‘The Room Abu Dhabi’ – a new fitness centre – all opened last year.
“Zayed Sports City was built to fulfil the vision of the late Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, the UAE’s founding father and first president,” says Bremner. “Our objective, therefore, is to make sports accessible to everyone, and the complex provides sports at a grassroots level, promotes healthy lifestyles and is committed to enhancing the wellbeing of the people in the UAE.”
The quality of Zayed Sports City’s facilities helped to scoop the award for the ‘Best Sports and Recreation Venue’ in the Middle East and north Africa at the 2013 and 2014 Sports Industry Awards, run by Sport360.
“World-class facilities are supported by other amenities, such as professional shops, changing facilities, fitness centres and technology,” adds Bremner. “Groups can also undertake a variety of sessions such as strength training or intense cardio, and any injured players can work out in the spinning rooms, gym or receive treatment in the newly-opened medical facility.”
Like other top training camps, the standard of coaching on offer is also important to the ongoing success of Zayed Sports City.
“Our choice of partners, who share our vision and values, is an attraction for visitors, and the expertise that our trainers have is a huge draw,” says Bremner. “Our team hails from all over the world, and some have even been with the facility since it opened. Given the size of the complex, we need a vast mix of skills, from engineering and IT to marketing and event management.
“What binds us together is our commitment to our core values, including flexibility, quality, being customer driven and working as a true team. We have a Manchester City School of Football on site, our PSS (Professional Sport Services) Tennis Academy has former Davis Cup players on staff, and our head ice skating coach was among the top 10 when he competed.”
In a competitive marketplace, customer feedback is essential to ensure continuous improvement. So far this year Zayed Sports City has already undertaken baseline surveys, a customer service workshop for the front of house and mystery shopping, which features an undercover ‘customer’ testing out the service on behalf of the management.
“Our customer service programme is one of the strongest in the region. We constantly solicit and receive feedback,” says Bremner. “I think that working with our clients to understand their needs is the key.
“There are general requirements for each sport, but also nuances for each team that we will accommodate. Once you learn what they require and how they want it delivered, if we succeed then the attraction is natural. We listen and are open to learn and adapt.”
As Bremner acknowledges, high-performance training facilities are increasingly asked by customers to provide a full service – from accommodation to sustenance to coaches. However, he also believes that clients are increasingly interested in focusing on core athletic development and recovery during their training camp rather than the possible attractions and luxuries away from the training facilities.
“Many customers are looking for a ‘one-stop shop’. We are gaining popularity because the site has high-quality facilities and trainers, plus fitness facilities, healthcare and recreation,” he adds.
“We also have partnerships with nearby hotels, transportation providers, airlines, promoters and commercial entities to support a complete experience while in Abu Dhabi. The site is dynamic, and we’re always looking to develop or upgrade programmes and facilities.
“With so many sports, the techniques and technologies are varied, but one trend we see is the ‘back to basics’ approach. People are looking to get back to fundamentals, focus on the small details, and then improve their overall performance, and we have coaches and trainers that deliver this.”