Vision KL has a sit down with the Chief Executive Officer of Perbadanan Stadium Malaysia, Azman Fahmi Osman, to talk about the main venue of the 29th SEA Games and the 9th ASEAN Para Games, the KL Sports City
There is a framed rendering in the office of Azman Fahmi Osman, depicting the exterior of a stadium whose façade is lined with vertical fins. It is perhaps unsurprising – after all, he is the Chief Executive Officer of the Malaysia Stadium Corporation. What is surprising however, is that many Malaysians would not recognise the subject of that picture, when it is in fact their National Stadium!
Well, they can’t be faulted. What they would be gazing at is the facelifted version of the National Stadium, sporting a look that is quite unlike the one it had during its 1998 Commonwealth Games days. It is one of the several sporting venues that is being given a new lease on life, as the Bukit Jalil Sports Complex transforms into the KL Sports City in time for the upcoming SEA Games and ASEAN Para Games later this year.
A Proper Overhaul
“The upgrading work is currently in its first phase,” Azman says. “It is sort of a rejuvenation process, as the look and feel of the existing structures within the complex are enhanced. For instance, the National Stadium initially lacked an impressive façade, and now it has one that gives it a strong identity.”
All the other buildings in the complex are receiving the same treatment. The National Aquatic Centre and the National Hockey Stadium are both undergoing extensive refurbishment, as is the Putra Indoor Stadium, which does not even retain its name in its rebirth. It will be known as the Axiata Arena upon opening day, the result of a partnership deal with the Malaysian telecommunications giant, in similar fashion to the O2 Arena in London.
The project involves far more than just slapping on a new lick of paint and applying some elbow grease. Although the existing structures remain; practically everything is to be changed and bettered inside and out. Dated facilities and designs are modernised with high quality new technology, while flashy new features are thrown into the mix for good measure.
Arguably the most striking amendments are the façades of the National Stadium and Axiata Arena. They light up beautifully at night; the upright ‘blades’ of the former capable of vibrant colours and patterns. Other updates include more comfortable seating, a cutting-edge surveillance and crowd-management system, considerably better audio setups and a ribbon board in the Axiata Arena.
Also in the works is a public park for a sizeable touch of greenery, replete with its own jogging and cycling track. Complementing this leisurely recreational offering is a youth park that boasts its own X-games facilities. Not forgotten is the nearby light rail transit (LRT) connection, the convenience of which is to be augmented by a covered walkway.
“With all these improvements on board, we are confident that the user experience would be improved to a large extent,” Azman states.
Not Just A Sports Venue
There is reason for this comprehensive endeavour. “We hope that this sprucing up will help us boost the sustainability of the complex in the future. It’s not just a normal upgrading for the Games, as we are looking at a longterm plan,” explains Azman. “Therefore, these renovations, the most substantial since 1998, will have to do for some time.”
Rigorous planning was performed with international consultants and architects, professionals who have experience with renowned stadiums and arenas in Europe and the rest of the world. Although some of these sporting landmarks were benchmarked, adjustments had to be made to suit local conditions and requirements.
A major consideration of the project was the realisation that the location had a case of tunnel vision; it was not too partial towards applications that do not require colour coded jerseys or special athletic equipment. “It was our aim to make the KL Sports City a commercial friendly venue,” he says. “The previous design was too focused on sports, and sponsors or partners to commercialise the whole complex were not exactly lining up at the gate.”
Taking a page from the best stadiums and arenas across the globe, and adopting the motto ‘Here Everything Is Possible’, the new KL Sports City has been conceptualised to better accommodate non-sport events such as concerts, weddings, conventions, product launches, expo sales, exhibitions and even meetings. Azman shares an example, “The new standalone corporate boxes have been redesigned to add more privacy and exclusivity, becoming the perfect venue for a conference.”
“We also want people to come to the stadium during non-events. They can have a jog at the park before taking a dip at the Aquatic Centre, and if they stay till late they can enjoy the brilliant lighting of the stadium’s exterior. The visuals will be very social media worthy!” says Azman, underlining the touristy potential of the area.
Have all these efforts paid off? Very much so, Azman assures. “As of now, the Axiata Arena is fully booked until March 2018! We are also receiving healthy interest from concert organisers who are keen on the National Stadium.”
However, since live grass is used on the pitch, Azman and his team would evaluate the National Stadium’s suitability for concerts after the Games take place. “We are concerned about the health of the grass as it is the home ground of the national football team, although judging by our preliminary tests, we are optimistic that it turn out fine.”
While Phase 1 of the project is on the home stretch, scheduled to be completed in July, Phase 2 commences in January 2018 and will add the necessary elements to affirm the sport city status. “Among the commercial properties to be built are a mall, a hotel, a hospital and a museum, all of which are to be sportsoriented,” reveals Azman. “Talks are also ongoing for a sports university to be constructed here.”
This new development, he adds, will negate the need to venture away from the location when there is an event, as it would provide everything one would require, from food and retail to attractions and accommodation.
“Aside from the KL Sports City, four other venues under Malaysia Stadium Corporation would host the SEA Games and ASEAN Para Games,” details Azman. There is the Jalan Duta National Sports Complex, the National Lawn Bowls Centre, Bukit Kiara, the Panasonic Shah Alam National Sports Complex and the National Velodrome in Nilai, Negeri Sembilan.
The facilities and features offered by these sporting venues, and others across the country, will supplement those found at the KL Sports City to ensure the Games don’t just transpire without a hitch, but go down as the best ones so far.
The National Velodrome was constructed from ground up using local talents, and built not just to specifications, but to a standard that rivals the best the world over – the same end the refurbishing of the stadiums in KL Sports City hopes to achieve. “This is the first indoor velodrome in Southeast Asia, and is equipped with cycling and BMX facilities,” he says. “Previously, the nearest one to Kuala Lumpur was in Hong Kong.”
KL 2017 Ready
The opening and closing ceremony of the 29th SEA Games and 9th ASEAN Para Games will take place at the National Stadium. Although only the Phase 1 would be ready then, the fans would not be left in the lurch thanks to the advancements.
Basic but crucial details will be tended to accordingly; food trucks parked on site feed the hungry, digital turnstile scanners ensure a more streamlined entry, numbered seats means a more organised – and happier – crowd, and the list goes on. Visitors have no need to worry about these concerns.
When spectators and supporters do arrive and clap eyes on the reimagined KL Sports City for the first time, Azman hopes they will be as impressed with it as he is. “When I go into the renewed National Stadium and comprehend it in all its glory, I get covered in goose bumps.”