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Free usage of Sports Hub facilities for limited period

Despite the Sports Hub's sizeable price tag, the public will get to enjoy several of its state-of-the-art facilities - built to meet international sporting standards - at a low cost, and even for free for a limited period, after the S$1.3 billion complex opens next month.

SINGAPORE: Despite the Sports Hub's sizeable price tag, the public will get to enjoy several of its state-of-the-art facilities - built to meet international sporting standards - at a low cost, and even for free for a limited period, after the S$1.3 billion complex opens next month.

For seven days a week, people of all ages can also attend introductory lessons for various sports without forking out any money.

In a recent interview with TODAY, Sports Hub Pte Ltd (SHPL) managing director Mark Collins said the public can book and use the 3,000-capacity OCBC Arena, 6,000-seat OCBC Aquatic Centre and the Water Sports Centre without paying any fees for more than a month after the Sports Hub opens.

Thereafter, the booking fees will be similar to those for public swimming pools and gyms run by the 62 government-operated sports recreation centres islandwide, for example.

He said: "We want every Singaporean to know that these facilities now exist and are open, and what they can do with them. We are going to have this introductory period, a free sample, come and test-drive - call it what you will. We want it to be at no charge, so people can have a free taste of what we have to offer."

With the exception of the 55,000-seat National Stadium and the 13,000-capacity Indoor Stadium that are meant for staging big events, the other facilities will be available for public bookings. Details will be released soon.

Mr Collins pointed out that free programmes for the community, as well as facilities priced for use by the man in the street are unheard of for such a collection of world-class arenas, which are usually built to house professional sports franchises or national teams.

The Sports Hub is the first project he has encountered that is constructed principally for public use as well as for elite athletes, said the Boston native who has been involved in the operations of major facilities throughout North America. While operating the facilities would incur huge bills, SHPL is able to open them up for public use or less prestigious sports events because of the 25-year public-private partnership (PPP) with the Government - the largest PPP deal in the world.

Mr Collins said: "Obviously, a big event that ... sells millions of dollars of tickets can afford to do it. But a school competition, which may be free or close to free, even if 20,000 show up, might only generate less than S$50,000 ... That would not be enough to pay for (the) operating cost.

"But because this project was designed on the PPP scheme, the contribution of the Government allows this to happen. We took that into consideration in the business model ... that's the coolness aspect of this project."

SHPL won a three-way bid in 2008 to build the complex and it is from big-ticket events such as the Women's Tennis Association Championships in October that it expects to recoup costs and generate profits.

Mr Collins said: "The profits, the fees, are not made off the backs of the community events, but off the commercial events. So we don't need to make money from the primary school events, for example."

"Basically, what the PPP means is that the private sector is prepared to work at a low-risk guaranteed business model, with upside potential if it demonstrates success."

He added that such a model allowed the Government to assemble the best talent from all disciplines - from designing and construction to content development - to build the Sports Hub. The result is a cluster of international-standard facilities for public use, which Mr Collins reiterated is not replicated anywhere in the world.

"In the short term, this Hub project will validate itself because people will eventually go, 'Wow, you mean I can do this for four bucks? That's what I pay when I am in Jurong!'"

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