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MENAFN - Khaleej Times - 23/07/2009

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(MENAFN - Khaleej Times) Sports Cities International, a unit of the Dubai-based Bukhatir Group, has started work on a 256-hectare development and sports complex in Tunisia that is likely to cost more than 5 billion upon its scheduled completion in 2024, the company said 
on Wednesday.

Sports Cities began earlier this month to market upscale apartments that it plans to build at the project, called Tunis Sports City. Workers are currently grading ground for an 18-hole golf course and planting trees, though actual construction won't start until November, the company said.

Tunis Sports City, located in the northern suburbs of Tunisia's capital city Tunis, is the second sports-themed development that Sports Cities is building overseas. A similar but smaller project in Tangiers, Morocco, is almost complete, it said.


Bukhatir Group's push to develop "sports cities" outside the UAE was motivated in part by its experience in building Dubai Sports City, in which Bukhatir has a 33 per cent stake. Dubai Sports City opened in Dubai in May. The recession has pummelled demand for lavish property complexes, and Tunis Sports City is a sign of the opportunities Bukhatir sees for similar properties in other countries.

"This is definitely a great time to invest in North Africa. The region has remained unaffected by the global crisis and continues to prosper, particularly in the areas of tourism and real estate. The Bukhatir Group is a highly diversified conglomerate and this project is certainly aligned with our overall vision", Abdul Rahman Bukhatir, Chairman of the Bukhatir Group, said in 
a statement.

Tunis Sports City is to comprise world-standard sports facilities that aim to attract international sports competitions. The complex will include residential towers, business centers, shopping malls, sports complexes, schools and hotels, in addition to a golf course certified by the Professional Golfers' Association, Sports Cities said.

The first residential tower is planned for completion in 2012, and the completed development will house as many as 30,000 people. Sports Cities will finance most of the project itself, the company said.

Tunis Sports City began its first phase on July 10 with off-plan sales of apartments at a luxury tower, the Burj Almasa, planned at a 13-hectare residential golfing community. Buyers snapped up more than 90 per cent of the tower's apartments within the first week, the statement quoted Paul Crosetta, the Chief Executive Officer - International for Sports Cities International, as saying. Tunis Sports City's sports district will have facilities built to specifications for international sports bodies and will host academies for swimming, track and field, volleyball and soccer. Tunis Sports City has signed agreements with several international institutes and sports clubs such as Olympique de Marseille and the American Swimming Coaches Association to oversee the academies, it said.

Sport Cities International said it is evaluating other opportunities in Sri Lanka, South Africa, India and Vietnam.

The company has slowed its work on a proposed sports city in Lahore, Pakistan, due to concerns about political instability in that country. "A decision on the development timeline is yet to be finalised," it said.

By Bruce Stanley

 






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