Zayed Sports City Abu Dhabi guide
There’s a lot more than football going on at this state-of-the-art centre Discuss this article
1 The complex
First, a bit of background. A gentle warm-up before we dive into a world of sport. Zayed Sports City Stadium was completed in 1980, and it underwent a major renovation in 2009. The arena is just part of this huge complex. There’s also the International Tennis Centre, home of the Mubadala World Tennis Championship (MWTC), in addition to separate facilities for everything from ice-skating to yoga. And then there are the restaurants, fitness events and festivals to keep you coming back.
2 International Tennis Centre
This is one of the jewels in the crown of Zayed Sports City. It gets most of its attention during late-December during the MWTC, a winner-takes-all tournament which has been won by the likes of Andy Murray, Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic. But it’s not just for the pros. Anyone can book court time here to work on their serves and volleys, with coaching available, too. There are nine outdoor hard-surface courts, four beach tennis courts and two padel tennis courts. The latter is a combination of squash and tennis, in which the ball can be played off the sides of the court. The International Tennis Centre is also home to Zayed Sports City’s netball and basketball facilities. And as if all that wasn’t enough, you’ll also find a ladies-only gym, Haddins Fitness and two restaurants. Game, set and match.
Dhs60 per hour (court hire). Dhs230 per session (coaching).
3 North American sports
If you want to shoot some hoops, pitch a few innings or make some crunching tackles, then you’re in luck. Basketball, softball and lacrosse can all be played here. There are three courts for basketball (and netball), a softball pitch and flexible spaces that can be used for lacrosse. These facilities are perfect for both North American sports fanatics and those looking to try something new.
Basketball: Dhs200 per hour (court hire), Dhs20 per person (walk-in). Softball and Lacrosse: Dhs750 (pitch hire).
4 Football and rugby
Watching football is a national pastime in the UAE, especially when the likes of Barcelona, Real Madrid, Bayern Munich and Manchester United are in action. But there are also loads of opportunities to get out and play the game yourself. At Zayed Sports City there are 14 pitches of various sizes, plus floodlights for evening matches. If rugby is more your thing, then you’ll find the Abu Dhabi Harlequins based here. There are teams for men, women, veterans and juniors, plus a touch rugby squad. Or, for something a little different – unless you’re from Down Under – there’s Australian rules football, too. The Abu Dhabi Falcons also call ZSC their home.
Football: From Dhs450 per hour (five-a-side pitch hire). Rugby: Abu Dhabi Harlequins, www.abudhabiquins.com. Australian rules: Abu Dhabi Falcons, www.abudhabifalcons.com.
5 Ice-skating rink
Hit the ice – hopefully not literally – at the complex’s rink, where you can drop in without a booking for the open sessions. Lessons for beginners are also available, for kids and adults, if you feel you need a bit of help staying on your feet. And there’s also a coaching programme for more advanced skaters who want to get more out of being on the ice. And don’t forget the searing summer heat. Yes, we’re in January, but it’ll be scorching again before you know it. That’s when this place comes into its own.
Dhs45 per person (public skating session). Dhs280 per person (four learn-to-skate sessions). From Dhs110 per person (one ice skating coaching session).
6 Khalifa International Bowling Centre
The 40-lane bowling centre is always a hive of activity, often with children’s parties, but also with big kids furiously trying to score strikes. There’s also a lane-side restaurant service to keep you fuelled during the game. And it’s not all about bowling here. The centre also houses facilities for billiards and table tennis.
You could lose a day playing the various sports in here.
Bowling: Dhs15 per person, per game. Billiards: From Dhs35. Table tennis: Dhs15 per person.
7 Performance Golf
Play your way around the world with Zayed Sports City’s state-of-the art golf simulator. There are 26 international courses on the system, making it perfect for golfers looking for a new challenge. It’s also a great training aid, offering swing analysis and tutorial modes. You can sign up for coaching or just turn up to hit a few balls.
Dhs250 per hour, Dhs950 per month.
8 Emirates Aikido Centre
Fans of combat sports aren’t left out of the fun, either. The Emirates Aikido Centre runs courses in this Japanese martial art that promotes the use of self-defense that doesn’t inflict pain on the attacker. There are sessions for both adults and kids in this non-violent activity. The courses are suitable for beginners, too, so no excuses for not signing up.
Courses start from Dhs600 per month.
9 Haddins Fitness
This gym is located within ZSC and offers tons of options for working out. There are individual and group classes, plus plenty of equipment such as weights, TRX apparatus and an Olympic-sized boxing ring. The membership options range from day passes through to yearly contracts, with personal training sessions on offer, too.
Dhs80 (day pass), Dhs1,100 (one month), Dhs2,500 (three months), Dhs6,600 (one year). From Dhs350 per session (personal training).
10 The Room
No, it’s not a Crystal Maze-inspired escape challenge. The Room is in fact a well-being and fitness centre that offers personal training, spinning classes, yoga sessions and sports massage. Located in the International Tennis Centre, these studios also house The Cycling Room, which makes your spinning classes interactive through video screens. Don’t be surprised to find yourself cycling through scenic mountain ranges.
Spinning: Dhs70 (one session). Personal training: Dhs280 (one session). Sports massage: Dhs200 (30 minutes). Membership: Dhs1,900 (three months), Dhs6,300 (one year, individual), Dhs10,600 (one year, couple).
11 Children’s activities
Little ones aren’t left out of the action. Every sport they could feasibly want to play is available at ZSC. English Premier League team Manchester City runs its City Football Schools programme here for boys and girls aged three to 16. Budding Maria Sharapovas and Andy Murrays can join the ZSC Tennis Academy, while those who like their action on the ice can sign up for the ZSC Skating Academy. Rugby-mad youngsters are welcomed by the Abu Dhabi Harlequins, and The Room runs after-school sessions to help kids burn off some energy. Keep an eye out for holiday camps that take place during breaks from school, too.
12 Festivals and events
Despite its name, and everything you’ve just read, Zayed Sports City isn’t just about working up a sweat. In October last year, the Sunset Music Festival rocked the complex with performances from Gabrielle, Arrested Development and Snap! Meanwhile, food lovers flocked to the venue back in November for Taste of Abu Dhabi and ate from food stalls set up by some of the city’s best restaurants. Keep an eye on the calendar for more events during 2017.
And while we’re talking about food, we shouldn’t overlook the dining options at ZSC. Two in particular stand out. The Sportsman’s Arms picked up the Best Family accolade at the 2016 Time Out Abu Dhabi Restaurant Awards. This cracking gastropub serves up brilliant examples of fish and chips, burgers and roast dinners, with a lovely outdoor deck, complete with a playground. There’s also a dedicated menu for the little ones. Then there’s Noodle Bowl, which offers authentic Chinese cuisine at budget prices. We’ve been so impressed with this eatery that it’s been named Highly Commended in our annual awards. Tuck in, you’ve earned it.
The Sportsman’s Arms: Open daily 8am-11pm. International Tennis Centre (02 403 4235). Noodle Bowl: Open daily 11am-11pm. Khalifa International Bowling Centre (02 447 2405).
14 Free activities
And, finally, if you don’t fancy any of the organised activities, you can take to the complex’s quiet roads and green spaces, which are ideal for a spot of cycling or running.
Zayed Sports City, Al Khaleej Al Arabi Street, www.zsc.ae (02 403 4200).
In Numbers Zayed Sports City
The number of sports you can play at Zayed Sports City. This is definitely the place to find a new hobby.
That’s how many bowling shoes you’ll find in the Khalifa International Bowling Centre. There are also 537 bowling balls in 12 colours. And, just in case you were wondering, the maximum score in bowling is 300.
The temperature on the ice rink. You can pay Dhs1,500 for an annual membership pass for unlimited skating.
By Christopher Hough
Time Out Abu Dhabi,