Since 2000 we'd been involved in producing layouts for the Dubai Rugby 7's "Village" and plans of the grounds for Police approvals. The event was traditionally held at the Dubai Exiles grounds and like Dubai had grown from a small local Gulf event and by 2006 was attracting 20,000 fans on the final two days.
In February 2007 we produced a master plan and concept visuals revamping the Exiles site by adding a 10,000 & 5,000 seat stand back to back onto two pitches as part of Emirates bid to host the 2009 IRB Sevens World Cup. By the end of February Emirates and Dubai were awarded the competition and here's where we expected our role to end. However in early March we were called to a meeting and informed that the Exiles grounds and Dubai Country Club were to be demolished to make way for part of the new Meydan development and consequently a new site needed to be found.
In May 2007 Emirates acquired a site on Al Ain Road but there was an added problem as the Dubai 7's now also needed to be held at the end of November 2008 meaning an eighteen month programme to design and build a grandstand with 10 changing rooms, seven pitches and a clubhouse with 12 changing rooms and bar / function rooms. Initially the grandstand was to be a two tier stand but time and cost constraints meant that we initially built level one but with all the structure in place for the second tier to be added at a later date.
Ground break was in mid October 2007 and while the initial earth movers seemed to be moving sand for weeks we had the unusual problem of moving the camel farms off site, however the camels came back on numerous occasions to check on progress. The first target was to get two pitches up and running by February 2008 as this was when the Exiles ground was to be demolished and there needed to be a venue for the local teams to play. To do this we also had to set-up a watering system so two bore wells were dug and an "RO" (Reverse Osmosis) plant built running off generators to produce clean water for the site.
The next deadline was the end of September 2008 when the IRB were due to visit and check progress. At this point things were moving well but due to the programme the site was being worked on simultaneously and was simply a huge building site with two completed pitches. It was hard to believe that the venue would be holding the Dubai 7's in eight weeks. The Grandstand and ground works were the biggest worries at this point as even though the structure of the stand was almost complete the amount of finishing, services and IT work still to be done was daunting. We had no time for a cold launch as from day one they'd be 50,000 supporters in the facility and that would be the dress rehearsal so too speak.
Midnight November 29th was D-Day, all trades were off site with security and organisers allowed to enter. The final touches were completed with no time to spare and maintenance would be working until three hours before the public entered. The 2008 Dubai Sevens broke the attendance record for 7's worldwide but still the old atmosphere of the Exiles was the same. Emirates had wanted the new facility to be a step forward but supporters should still be able to move freely around the pitches and village areas meet up with friends in a relaxed space.
R+R Design / Site Team: John Rabone, Bibin Abraham, Alissar Elbaba, Saibi Dev, Renjith KS, Jibu NV, Aneesh VT, Aneesh Kumar