SINGAPORE - Nanyang Polytechnic student Nigel Cheong, a keen badminton enthusiast, often needs to book a weekend slot for a public court at least two to three weeks in advance.
And even then, he is successful only about 70 per cent of the time.
So the 20-year-old was thrilled to learn that Singapore will have 20 additional public courts at the Punggol Regional Sports Centre (RSC), which is scheduled to be ready by 2023.
Cheong, who used to play at Jurong East, Bukit Gombak and Clementi sports halls three to four times a week before the circuit breaker to stem the spread of Covid-19 kicked in on April 7, said: "It's definitely better because others wouldn't have to fight for the courts and we would not have to book early just to get the courts that we want.
"It is also good that there will be a regional sports centre because it will help to cultivate the sporting scene here in Singapore as well."
Singapore Badminton Association president Lawrence Leow also applauded the initiative, saying: "The 20 new courts will certainly be welcomed by both badminton enthusiasts and recreational players and offer individuals and families an additional venue to play and enjoy the game."
Currently, the indoor sports hall at Our Tampines Hub is the only one with 20 badminton courts. Having another facility of a similar scale would help to ease the demand for badminton courts, which were ActiveSG's most popular sports facilities last year.
There were over 810,000 badminton court bookings in 2019, the highest in comparison to all other sports and facilities. The second most popular public sports facilities were tennis courts and table tennis tables, which had over 100,000 bookings each last year.
Public badminton courts were also in high demand as sports facilities reopened last Friday (June 19), with over 90 per cent of about 3,000 slots taken up. All available courts were booked on Sunday.
Former national shuttler Derek Wong, who conducts private badminton classes now, believes that having such a facility will aid youth development at the grassroots level.
He said: "It will help to promote the sport in Punggol where the surrounding schools are not very strong in badminton. With these 20 courts, young families will be able to expose their kids to badminton much more easily."
Apart from the indoor sports hall, the new facility will have a 5,000-seater football stadium, a swimming complex with five pools, and a team sports hall with three convertible courts. Each court is able to support netball, basketball or volleyball. The hall can also hold up to 3,000 seats.
The facility will also include a gym, fitness studio, sheltered tennis and futsal courts, a water activity centre and an archery training centre.
In terms of the size of sports facilities, the Punggol RSC will be the largest ActiveSG Sport Centre to date. Its infinity lap pool, at 50m, is the biggest among ActiveSG's swimming complexes and the team sport hall, at 5,000 sq m, is also ActiveSG's biggest yet.
The development of Punggol RSC is part of the Sports Facilities Master Plan, a key initiative of the national sports blueprint Vision 2030 and is covered by the $400 million that is pumped into developing the sports sector annually.
The Ministry of Culture, Community and Youth said that work on the facility would begin as soon as possible.
When asked about the possibility of a delay because of the Covid-19 situation, MCCY Minister Grace Fu, who revealed details about the plans for the Punggol RSC in a virtual media interview on Monday, replied: "I think given the current situation, when manpower as well as logistical change (is) subjected to big uncertainty, it's very difficult to hold anyone to a deadline on construction.
"We have the plans to move ahead as planned but even that - a lot depends on whether the contractors are able to find the workers and whether the materials can come from the suppliers. I must put in a lot of caveat on deadlines, but we have every intention to move as normally as we can if there's a way to do so."
Residents in Bishan and Toa Payoh can look forward to the Toa Payoh Integrated Development, which will be developed over the next 10 years and will have a sport centre, polyclinic, library and town park.