UAE  - As every business is diversifying these days, so do malls in the UAE. They are not just a shopping destination, but offering healthcare services and – of late – sports facilities as well.

These sports facilities are not just popular during the summertime when most of the activities are restricted to indoors, they’re quite popular among sports enthusiasts throughout the year.

Currently, Safeer Mall in Sharjah, Naeem Mall in Ras Al Khaimah, Marina Mall in Abu Dhabi and Zabeel Sports District in Dubai Mall are some of the facilities where sports aficionados can enjoy their favourite games. These malls offer a variety of sports such as cricket, tennis, paddle tennis, and table tennis among others.

Mall owners claim that they are leasing spaces for sports activities not because they’re unable to lease them to brands but to provide diverse offerings and meet demand amidst changing consumer behaviours in the country.

The UAE residents are increasingly turning towards indoor facilities due to the proximity of facilities to their homes, play regularly without worrying about the weather conditions, and they can play with family members and friends

“Malls are increasingly introducing different courts for the sport for several reasons. Firstly, it helps to increase revenue by attracting more visitors to the mall. Sports facilities provide an additional entertainment option, encouraging people to spend more time and money at the mall. Secondly, it helps to increase footfall as people interested in the sport are more likely to visit the mall if it offers such facilities lastly introducing sports facilities adds diversity to the tenant mix, making the mall more appealing to a wider range of customers,” says Purushotam Tejwani, leasing manager, Safeer Mall.

The Sharjah-based mall which a variety of indoor sports games, including badminton, basketball, volleyball, cricket, football, table tennis, karate, and gymnastics.

Mohammed Naeem, general manager, Al Naeem Group, said like every other business, shopping malls are also constantly being upgraded to suit the changing needs and demands of the customer.

“Today, people are looking for a multi-purpose environment that offers extensive leisure activities as well as other services, like office, residential, and cultural amenities, and shopping malls are evolving accordingly. An ideal mall of the future will be a destination that feeds the functional requirements of people’s lives as well as their need to be social,” said Naeem.

He added that shopping malls will have to be revamped and upgraded to become a thriving community where people will live, work, play, and eat.

“People visiting malls are looking for more than just a few retail outlets to shop from. They are looking for a 360-degree experience catering to their various social requirements. Moreover, the strategic location of malls within the city makes it convenient for people staying in neighbouring areas to visit. Fitness and sports facilities are much in demand and if it is available at a mall close by, it is more convenient for people.”

Mohammed Naeem added that indoor sports facilities are being leased out to meet the demand for such activities.

“It’s been said that there are only two kinds of futures — the one you inherit and the one you design. Where last century’s mall and shopping centre tenants used technology in purely logistical and transactional ways, this century’s entrepreneurs will leverage technologies allowing them to interface and communicate with consumers armed with their own shopping technologies,” he said.

More occupancy during the summer

The average occupancy at the sports facilities at Safeer Mall is 25,000 per month, which indicates the number of people utilising facilities within a month.

Tejwani elaborated that indoor mall sports facilities are not popular only during summer but throughout the year. “However, the occupancy rates may be slightly higher during the summer months due to people being more inclined to participate in indoor sports activities to escape the heat or during school vacations.”

Ras Al Khaimah-based Al Naeem Mall sees 30 to 50 per cent occupancy during normal days and up to 80 per cent over the weekends.

Mohammed Naeem said indoor sports facilities do thrive during the summer and people prefer a convenient location throughout the year.

“It is easier for them to frequent a conveniently located mall that offers their favourite sport as compared to a distant club. Moreover, indoor sports facilities solve all the problems and limitations inherent in outdoor courts – they allow people to play regularly without worrying about the current weather conditions and save the facility owners a lot of cash for maintenance and upkeep."

"The safety and comfort of the complexes and the superior playing conditions they offer draw athletes from all ages and walks of life, so the facilities are always busy and prosperous. Games and practices are never cancelled because of the weather, allowing the business owners to turn a profit at a time when outdoor facilities can’t,” he said.

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