Fixing the Sports Hub's many problems

Roof works will be done soon, new grass pitch laid for June SEA Games

The National Stadium field has been the source of much debate - even among the Sports Hub's top executives.

When The Straits Times asked the Hub's senior management to grade its first six months of operations, chief executive Philippe Collin-Delavaud proposed an A-, pointing to several architectural awards bestowed on the $1.33 billion facility and its staging of premier sporting events such as the Rugby World Club 10s and the WTA Finals Singapore.

Mark Woodhams, chairman of the board of directors at Sports Hub Pte Ltd (SHPL), which manages and runs the Kallang facilities, was more conservative.

"B+ is a realistic mark - there's room for improvement, particularly for the National Stadium roof and field," he said.

Correcting these "teething issues" has been the Sports Hub's main focus as Singapore gears up to host the SEA Games for the first time in 22 years in June.

For starters, the stadium's domed roof will be repaired to avoid a repeat of the leaks when rain hit Mandopop superstar Jay Chou's concert last month.

Additional flashing, or rain deviators, will be installed to channel water more efficiently. The works will be completed before popular boyband One Direction's scheduled March 11 concert.

Officials said a technical investigation found that a "combination of factors", among them heavy rain and strong winds, resulted in water dripping from the roof at locations not detected previously.

Angry fans at the Jay Chou gig posted pictures and videos of water-soaked seats and concert-goers carrying umbrellas indoors to stay dry.

"This is only the start of a 25-year project. In six months, you cannot expect a small city, which is what we are, to be in perfect shape," said Sports Hub chief operating officer Oon Jin Teik.

The Sports Hub was built under a public-private partnership scheme with the Singapore Government.

While the Government did not pay anything upfront, it will bear the construction and operational costs of the Sports Hub, making annual payments over 25 years to SHPL.

The stadium's much-maligned pitch is also in for a revamp - a day after the SEA Games opening ceremony on June 5.

A new natural turf, following the lay-and-play system with warm weather grass, will be installed in time for the competition's football and track and field events.

Oon said: "The cost of implementing the new turf solution is fully borne by SHPL and will not be passed down to spectators and promoters.

"Our priority remains delivering a venue that Singaporeans can be proud of. I am confident they will see that in June."

nsanjay@sph.com.sg