Ahmedabad: The newly-built stadium where World Cup Kabaddi 2016 kick started on October 7 bears posters of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his Make in India campaign logos.
“A Made in India arena to open with a Made in India sport,” reads one of them. The project has a long association with Modi from the time he was the Gujarat chief minister.
The Arena by TransStadia is a Rs550 crore project, built on a unique public private partnership (PPP) model, is hailed as India’s first convertible stadium. It uses a globally patented technology, which converts an outdoor stadium into an indoor arena within 6 minutes at a touch of a button. The facility houses as many as 14 sports, excluding cricket.
The project is built on a defunct Abad Dairy property—measuring about 9 acres—in Maninagar, the constituency represented by Modi when he was the chief minister. The arena boasts of a Fifa standard natural turf with a seating capacity of 20,000, including patented expertise that enables the conversion of a section of the stadium into a 4,000 pillar-less multi-purpose indoor venue.
“I had pitched the idea of a state-of-the-art multi-purpose, multi-sport social sports infrastructure to as many as 10 chief ministers in 2008. Of them, four responded including our current prime minister. While one of them got replaced, another one was broke, while the third one was facing corruption charges for the 2010 Commonwealth Games. Modiji and his team promptly responded and were very supportive from day one. Today what you see is in a way his dream turning into a reality,” said Udit Sheth, founder chief executive officer and managing director of Mumbai-based SE TransStadia Pvt Ltd, a part of Setco Automotive Limited, a leading clutch manufacturer.
The land for the project, given on a lease for 35 years at a nominal price, was allotted in 2013 following a state cabinet approval in 2011. As per the concession agreement signed with the Gujarat government’s tourism department, TransStadia will give minimum 2% of their revenue to the state authorities for the development of sports in Gujarat.
Terming it as India’s first PPP model urban sports infrastructure project, Sheth said that he consciously sidestepped cricket in his venture owing to the politics and bureaucracy involved in the game. Recently, the Niti Aayog Bill has also spoken extensively in favour of encouraging development of sports infrastructure through private or public private partnership mode.
Today, the challenge that most of stadiums in India face is to come up with a model that is self-sustaining with most of them being underutilized and being financially overbearing.
Sheth said that his project, the first phase of which was launched with the Kabaddi World Cup, is structured in a way to overcome this challenge and will pave the way for future sports infrastructure projects in the country to be developed by private companies.
“Today, all the stadiums in the country are run by government and have turned into white elephants. We have a very flawed definition of a stadium in the country. We have decided to turn the model on its head. With a professional team of architects, designers and field experts we have built a multi-purpose project that has entertainment, hospitality and wellness activities too,” said Sheth, a sports enthusiast, nutrition programmer and an alumnus of the Sloan School of Management, Boston.
Apart from 70,000 square feet of area for retail that will be sub-leased soon for various outlets, the work for building a 150-room four-star hotel is also on. A membership drive for an exclusive club is also underway for a fee of Rs6 lakh per family and as so far over 400 members have signed up.
Built on a design-build-finance-operate-transfer (DBFOT) model with a debt:equity ratio of 2:1, the company aims to break-even in about six to years. “It is a cash flow business and not a valuation game,” said Sheth.
The Arena project has drawn inspirations from several sports complexes across the world including the UK’s Wembley Stadium, Tokyo Dome of Japan and Amsterdam Arena in the Netherlands.
In most developed countries, sports contribute around 2-4% of total employment whereas in India, its contribution to the total employment is just .05%, according to an Ernst and Young 2010 report.
Hailing the recent move by the ministry of youth affairs & sports to include sports in the harmonised master list of infrastructure, Sheth said that sports infrastructure in India is a $10 billion opportunity.
TransStadia has exclusive licence for a patented ‘T-Box Technology’ that augments stadium utilization from ‘StadiArena’ UK and Sheth aims to develop 12 leading projects in India in the next five years.
The company has already earmarked three cities including Bengaluru, Jaipur and Amravati, the new capital of Andhra Pradesh, for setting up projects on the lines of Ahmedabad. “While the Jaipur and Bengaluru projects will each cost about Rs500 crore, I would not like to reveal much about the Amravati project now,” Sheth said.
He said that his company is committed to delivering on the dream of our nation of bringing Olympics and other international sporting events to our country.
Meanwhile, the Kabaddi World Cup 2016, which is underway, is being hailed to be the biggest extravaganza of the sport, thanks to the representation from all Olympic geographies.
Janardan Singh Gehlot, president, International Kabaddi Federation, said, “This is the watershed moment for the sport of Kabaddi globally. The International Kabaddi Federation has been working to develop Kabaddi as a competitive discipline. With 2016 Kabaddi World Cup, the sport is all set to breakthrough on a global stage…I am sure the teams will inspire many more people in their countries to take up the sport.”
Sheth is hopeful that the Kabaddi World Cup, which is being telecast exclusively on Star Sports network and Hotstar to 125 countries, will not only change the way the world looks at Indian sports but also at the country’s sporting infrastructure.