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An 18,000 capacity indoor arena, dozens of cafes and restaurants, a pier, promenade, infinity pool, hotels and even room for a metro. Welcome to Yas Bay.

Work is advancing rapidly at Abu Dhabi’s Dh12 billion mega project on the southern end of Yas Island.

Thousands of workers are toiling at the site, while scores of cranes dominate the skyline.

On a tour of the site on Tuesday, the pace of development is clear. Yas Bay Arena – the emirate’s new indoor venue – is 75 per cent complete and on track to open next year. The seats and escalators are going in, while the distinctive bronze fins of the façade are starting to go up.

The one million square metre Yas Bay area also includes a sprawling Hilton hotel, 15,000 residences and the new headquarters of TwoFour54, the media free zone that operates from Khalifa Park. There are 35 residential plots, with two sold this year.

“Our latest construction update highlights the significant progress we have achieved on our pioneering Yas Bay project,” said Mohamed Al Zaabi, chief executive of Miral. “[It] will be a vibrant and iconic addition to Yas Island.”

Officials said construction was unaffected by the economic situation that has seen some projects in Abu Dhabi postponed because of the important role it plays in diversification.

Yas Bay Arena is the most striking part of the development. And Miral officials on Tuesday shrugged off concerns about competition from the newly-opened Coca-Cola arena in Dubai.

“Yes, we may have competition … but we believe the facility we are constructing is absolutely required in Abu Dhabi,” said Jonathan Brown, executive director for development at Miral. “There is no other indoor, air-conditioned arena that can cater to 18,000 people.”

Yas Bay seeks to attract and keep more tourists on the island – already home to Warner Brothers, Yas Waterworld, the F1 track and golf courses – while encouraging more residents to spend time there.

Development began in 2017 and the Hilton hotel is 60 per cent complete, while a new pier area with scores of licensed restaurants and cafes is also at an advanced stage. Mosques and schools are also part of the development, while the site is set up to accommodate a future metro link, if transport chiefs decide to build one.

Officials stressed that environmental concerns were at the heart of the thinking on Yas Bay and suggested the arena could become a “zero plastic” venue. The fins of the façade also reflect the sun, reducing the air-conditioning requirement, while the building’s design even won the “sustainable building design of the year” at the Middle East and North Africa green building awards last year.

“We want to be one of the most sustainable arenas in the region and we want to get up to the standard of some in the western market,” said Brint Jackson, general manager of Yas Bay Arena. “It has its own energy centre on site. We are also looking at becoming zero plastic.”

The 546-room Hilton is also set to open next year. “The project looks really awesome,” said Rudi Jagersbacher, Hilton’s president for Middle East, Africa and Turkey, who said it would cater chiefly to families. “You cannot compare here with Dubai – it is a different client. Here is more family and more corporate,” he said. “So the reason why this will be much more successful than most is because it is family-oriented.”

He added that the environment was of huge importance to Hilton and the group does not get involved in projects that do not put sustainability at its heart.

“Plastic is a big problem, as are many other things. We have to stop thinking financially and look is what right for us long term.”

For now, Miral’s team of workers are focused on the task on hand. Will the arena be ready to open next year? “Yes,” said Mr Brown without hesitating. “The seats are going in and lots of different works are being carried out in parallel. There really isn’t anywhere else like it in Abu Dhabi.”

Originally published on The National on 02.10.19

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