Team sport is big business in Dubai, so it was surely only a matter of time before ever-growing gym brand Fitness First decided to get a slice of the pie. Though the current weather is perfect for outdoor sporting pursuits (apart from badminton – try getting a shuttlecock to fly straight in these winds!), summer isn’t far off, and Fitness First’s new SportZone facility in The Meadows aims to offer a solution.
Formerly part of the Hayya! club, which the chain took over last year, SportZone is open all year round, not just during the hottest few months of the year, and aims to offer a number of sports simultaneously, welcoming both adults and kids. The hall can currently be configured to accommodate three futsal pitches, three five-a-side football pitches, two volleyball courts, two basketball courts, six badminton courts and a variety of different-sized cricket setups. And contrary to the system operated by Fitness First’s gyms, the facility is open to non-members for hire on a pay-as-you-go basis.
Recreational sport has proved popular among the city’s residents (Duplays’ leagues have thousands of players on their books), yet the 1,300 sq m facility was apparently opened not as a result of existing demand, but ‘potential demand’ according to Mark Botha, Fitness First’s group marketing manager.
Rates, Mark explains, are slightly above the market average of competitors such as InSportz and Soccer Circus, but he believes once people see the new facilities, there will be little argument over whether it’s worth spending more. For example, research into prices across local indoor sports facilities conducted by accounting and advisory firm PKF placed average court charges for an hour of football at Dhs450-500, while the per-hour charge for non-members during peak times (the most expensive tier) for a five-a-side football court at SportZone sits at Dhs480.
Yet plans for the centre extend beyond simply renting out courts and pitches – there is talk of launching a series of Fitness First sports leagues for futsal, basketball, volleyball and indoor cricket (on the day we looked around, the staff were erecting bleachers for spectators). ‘We’d spoken with Duplays about it using our facilities for its leagues, but we thought about it and decided it would be more cost effective to run our own.’
In the meantime, if you’re keen to be one of the first to check out the new facility, just throw on your sports attire and grab a few mates to join your team. Badminton court rental starts at Dhs120 per hour
for non-members (that’s Dhs60 a player, in case you’re more sportsperson than maths whizz), and you can rent rackets for Dhs15. And we guarantee you’ll be more in command of that shuttlecock once shielded from these shamals.
Rental from Dhs90 (members) and Dhs120 (non members) for a badminton court. Open daily 6am-11pm. Fitness First, The Meadows Village, www.fitnessfirst-me.com (04 437 0545).
Free facilities around town
Al Barsha Pond Park
This park houses tennis courts, volleyball courts, football pitches, basketball courts and fitness gear, plus a 1.4km running track.
23rd Street, Barsha (no number).
Al Sufouh Park
There are free basketball, beach volleyball and tennis courts, plus gym equipment and a jogging track.
Al Sufouh Road (no number).
Al Quoz Pond Park
One of the few new parks to offer softball, with three pitches, plus batting cages and bleachers.
Take the Nad Al Sheba exit from Sheikh Zayed Road, sharp right after the overpass (no number).
Though there is a charge for tennis court hire, the basketball court here is free – though the park charges a Dhs3 entry fee.
Al Wasl Road (04 349 2111).
This park has a free cricket pitch, and plenty of room for activities such as rollerblading. The park has a Dhs5 entry fee.
Za’abeel Road, behind DIFC (04 398 6888).