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China to be a leader in sport of kings.

Developing Equine culture city in Tianjin undertaken after feasibility studies

Dubai Since Meydan's announcement that it will build another equestrian sport-oriented development in China, the Tianjin Equine Culture City has been progressing steadily. Once complete, the city will boost China's prestige and put it on the world map as a horse racing capital along with the US, Australia and the UK.

Saeed Humaid Al Tayer, chairman of the board and CEO of Meydan, talks about the development's progression.

Gulf News: Why was Tianjin in China chosen as the next destination for an equine city?

Saeed Humaid Al Tayer: We had undertaken extensive feasibility studies in the past two years before deciding to embark on this initiative in Tianjin.

China was a natural choice as the next destination for the development of an international equine city as horses and equestrian sports have always been an integral part of Chinese culture and history.

Today, China has the fastest growth per capita in luxury goods and services such as luxury vehicles, yachts, golf as well as luxury consumer goods. IEG hopes to be able to capture these particular market segments as well as expand equine sports into the middle income group, and to propel the sport to be one of the premier sporting industries in China.

A recent visit of Tianjin's leaders to Dubai also reaffirmed that city has a catchment population of 200-300 million, and is linked by a high-speed bullet train. This provides a vast potential for growth of this very unique sport.

After two years of careful considerations, International Equine Group (IEG) IEG has recently signed a MOU with Tianjin State Farm Agribusiness Group (TJSF), and we hope the signing of this MOU signifies a new chapter of close collaboration between Sino-Dubai enterprises.

We have found our partner to be very receptive to equine sports concepts, and has facilitated our activities in Tianjin positively. We look forward to further TJSF guidance and assistance in granting the necessary resources and land for our exercise. We've noticed since the announcement during March this year at Meydan of our interest in working with the Chinese, that there have been a series of equine related news being announced in China, and we see this as a very positive response for the industry there.

I have no doubt China will become one of the leaders of the sport of kings. That is why we are putting in our best resources, together with our partners, to impart the necessary knowledge and experience to Tianjin. Hopefully, this will result in a strong resurgence of the sport in China.

What will the development of TECC bring to Tianjin and China?

Tianjin Equine Culture City (TECC) will nurture the necessary professionals in the equine industry as well as quality thoroughbred horses. TECC will also be involved in the necessary supporting activities to develop the equine sports and culture, and that we hope to eventually be the premier equine sporting tourism destination in China.

With a total land area of roughly 35 million square feet, TECC will also showcase some of the best practices from Dubai in real estate and tourism development, as well as complementary equine cultural content. We believe entertainment and leisure projects will be the main tourism attraction and we expect this to boost the economy for the region. Tianjin is also minutes away by bullet train from Beijing so it is conveniently accessible by the masses in China.

What is the total project value of Tianjin Equine Culture City?

Tianjin Equine Culture City is planned in multiple phases, similar to our approach with Meydan. The value of the project will vary depending on phases and the components approved. Phase one of the development is currently valued at approximately 14 billion yuan (approximately $2 billion).

After Tianjin Equine Culture City do you have any plans to carry out a similar master development to elsewhere in the world?

Not at this current juncture. While opportunities always present themselves, we plan to undertake each as it comes with a progressive, structured and controlled approach to how we review our international business ventures.

How important are master developments like these in boosting a country's status as a horse racing/tourist destination and what kind of effect will this have on the economy?

A master development such as TECC will be a significant economic contributor. Let's look at the more mature equine industries elsewhere in the world, the direct economic impact that the equine industry has had on the national economies of countries like US, UK and Australia are substantial.

Once implemented successfully, TECC will contribute tremendously to Tianjin's income while providing new employment opportunities and developing an equine industry economy that will be the standard across China.

With a thriving port for business, trading and commerce, and the foundation for hospitality and tourism sectors set in place, it is no doubt that TECC will develop as one of the world's most unique destinations for sports, lifestyle and tourism.

How are you financing it?

For our activities in Tianjin, we have together with our partner TAK, formed IEG which will undertake a series of equine related activities in China. IEG and its investors have considerable strength to execute the various components of the project.

We have appointed China Construction Bank International (CCBI) as our financial advisor and investment banker in this project to identify and accelerate our execution plan. We believe that there are acquisition and/or consolidation opportunities in China and elsewhere in this industry. In addition, we will also need to import and establish complementary technology such as feed mill, equine auction, equine hospital and others. We will release more information at appropriate stages.

What are the most recent project updates at Meydan City?

Meydan Grandstand and Racecourse was officially launched on March 27, 2010 during the 15th Dubai World Cup, which also saw the world's first 5-star luxury trackside hotel, The Meydan, has rapidly gained traction in the hospitality industry as well.

Since then, Meydan has not only opened registrations for businesses in the Meydan Free Zone but also focused on promoting the location as an ideal platform for meetings, incentives, conferences and exhibitions, actualising its objectives as one dynamic location with many possibilities, offering a multitude of options for business, entertainment, sports and leisure.

We are also ready to gear up for our first-ever residential launch with a preview of the luxury gated villa community developed in conjunction G&Co. They will be announcing the preview of three, full mock-up villas for investors and clients in due course.

This is an exciting development for us, we feel that it will fill a missing space in the current real estate market, with exceptionally well designed villas that have a more modern and contemporary feel when we were looking at its architecture and design considerations. We believe in creating not just wonderful homes but living spaces which adopt green technology and take into consideration our customer's needs and lifestyle desires are.

We are in the planning stages for the rest of the developments and will soon be having our groundbreaking for the new Meydan Golf Course as well.

What is the total cost of the project and when is the full city scheduled to be complete?

Meydan City is close to 200 million square feet with four distinct district zones, and is understandably earmarked as a phased project due to its size and scale. The cost of the Meydan Grandstand and Racecourse including The Meydan hotel, Falcon car park and infrastructure is approximately Dh10 billion.

From a master planning perspective, we haven't disclosed the total cost of the entire project due to how it's evolved based on changing market conditions and what our private investors' long-termed development plans are.

We are happy with the progress being made, other districts have gone through planning stages and will start as per market trends which we constantly monitor. We will continue to work very closely with our partners in ensuring that Meydan City fulfils its vision of being a city of the future and a landmark project for the UAE.

Have there been any major changes in the master plan and what have these been?

We've been very clear in our objectives for Meydan and the overall master urban planning which has been designed to allow changes, if so required, to suit marketing changes and requirements. We are pleased that Meydan City remains on track as how we've envisioned it and we look forward to unveiling more of the other districts and developments in the near future.

How has the Meydan development helped boost Dubai's presence on the international racing map?

Meydan has firmly stamped Dubai's position as a global sports venue and arguably, the leading contender for the largest and best racecourse in the world.

The Dubai International Racing Carnival in early 2010 received a record number of 1,951 entries from 23 countries and the 15th running of the Dubai World Cup not only saw some of the world's best horsemen and thoroughbreds, but we were also host to a record 63,000 guests during the Dubai World Cup on March 27.

Meydan has raised the benchmark for the industry and it is part of a bigger plan for Dubai to be known as one of the world's best tourism and sporting destinations. We expect the 2010-11 racing season to be even better.

FRANCOIS NEL/Gulf News Archive

Natural choice

China was a natural choice for developing an international equine city as horses and equestrian sports have been part of Chinese culture and history, Al Tayer says.

Saeed Humaid Al Tayer: CEO of Meydan

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Publication:Gulf News (United Arab Emirates)
Geographic Code:8AUST
Date:Nov 26, 2010
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