Kingdom ‘Green Spine’ Riyadh Sports Boulevard



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Riyadh Sports Boulevard Project Image: Riyadh Sports Boulevard

Riyadh’s massive Sports Boulevard project is well underway with the goal of transforming the Saudi Arabia capital into one of the world’s most livable Cities, according to Jayne McGivern, head honcho of the Sports Boulevard Foundation (SBF).

‘Arabian Business’ stated that the Riyadh Sports Boulevard will include the Prince Mohammed bin Salman bin Abdulaziz Road and stretch over 135 kilometers from Wadi Hanifah in the West with Wadi Al Sulai in the East when complete, connecting the entire City through a series of green pathways for cycling, walking, horse riding, and various sporting activities once complete.

The Sports Boulevard is a proposed large-scale linear park located in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. it was launched by King Salman on March 19th, 2019. It is one of the largest projects in the world. It is supervised and operated by the Sports Boulevard Foundation with its Chairman Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud at the helm.

The Sports Boulevard Foundation is a project in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia that aims to create a healthy lifestyle. The project was launched in March 2019 by King Salman bin Abdulaziz, the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques.

Construction is moving ahead on schedule with the first phase set to open to the public later this year, McGivern said.

She explained, “The Sports Boulevard will span eight distinct districts and deliver iconic destinations and architectural highlights for Riyadh – including a state-of-the-art amphitheater, performance spaces and artist exhibition areas, as well as designated investment zones for commercial opportunities including retail and real estate, among others.”

‘Arabian Business’ further stated that when finished by 2029, the project will have created over 4.4 million square meters of new green spaces and planted more than 170,000 trees. The residents and visitors will be able to enjoy world-class facilities for 50 different sports.

She added, “There have been a number of construction milestones announced over the last year and there will be a range of phased openings between 2024 and 2029 with the first publicly accessible elements of the development – The Cycling Bridge and Promenade -due to be completed this year.”
 

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The project, launched by the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques, King Salman bin Abdulaziz in March 2019, aims to fulfill the ambitious goals of Saudi Vision 2030 to improve health, wellness and quality of life for all.

The Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques is the official title of the King of Saudi Arabia. The two holy mosques are the Al-Masjid al-Haram in Mecca and the Al-Masjid al-Nabawi in Medina, which are considered the holiest in Islam. The title has been officially used by the monarchs of Saudi Arabia since 1986.

The Saudi Vision 2030 is a Government program launched by the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia which aims to achieve the goal of increased diversification economically, socially and culturally, in line with the vision of the Saudi Crown Prince and the Prime Minister Mohammed bin Salman.

By making outdoor activities accessible to the communities across Riyadh, officials hope to transform the City into one of the top 10 most livable global destinations.

“The Sports Boulevard will be walking distance from 16 percent of Riyadh’s population and will have direct links to three major Metro stations, connecting people to its world-class facilities for over 50 different sports and all the other megaprojects, without driving anywhere,” McGivern said, adding that the mega project will have a “positive impact” across all sectors in Riyadh.

Maintained McGivern, “It’s not just about world-class facilities, we will also create almost five million SQMT of greenery and open spaces, plant over 170,000 trees, in turn increasing the per capita share of green space in Riyadh by over 60 percent. In turn, this will boost tourism and Riyadh’s global stature as one of the world’s most livable Cities.”
 

‘Phased Openings’

Since the announcement of its launch, the Sports Boulevard’s construction has been progressing rapidly with a “range of phased openings” scheduled between 2024 and 2028, McGivern said, adding that some “publicly accessible” elements will open this year for the visitors. Elements include ‘The Cycling Bridge and Promenade’.

She stated, “Progress is being made in the development of the different districts across the project, including the King Khalid Road Underpass, King Abdulaziz Road Underpass, Promenade, the Urban Wadi, and the Sands Sports Park.”

Recently, the Sports Boulevard signed a new partnership with the Ajdan Real Estate Development Company (AJDAN – a real estate company that develops mixed-use properties in Saudi Arabia, the Gulf Cooperation Council [GCC] and beyond) and the Albilad Investment Company (an investment banking company in Saudi Arabia that offers asset management, brokerage and investment banking services) in December 2023 to create a private real estate investment fund worth SAR1 billion.

This fund will support the mixed-use redevelopment of real estate in Riyadh, marking an important milestone in the City’s urban transformation, and will assist in world-class amenities being built in the Arts District of the Sports Boulevard project.

The residential, retail, office, and food/beverage spaces developed through this fund aim to attract further investment and public-private collaborations going forward. It also enables a variety of property types catering to lifestyle, work and entertainment needs, McGivern revealed.
 

‘Green Spine’

With a focus on greenery and open spaces, Riyadh’s Sports Boulevard aims to create a sustainable sports and wellness ecosystem to motivate the residents to adopt healthy and active lifestyles thus becoming a central “green spine” in the Kingdom, McGivern said.

She further explained, “Riyadh is changing to become a City fit for centuries and generations to come. In the future, it will be recognized as one of the world’s greatest Cities. The Sports Boulevard’s vision is to create a ‘green spine’ in Riyadh that connects the City, enables sports adoption and improves the quality of life in alignment with the goals of Saudi Vision 2030.”

Throughout the 4.4 million square meter megaproject, the visitors can take advantage of the various sports facilities, over 220 kilometers of cycling tracks, 134 kilometers of horse trails, and 135 kilometers of walking paths.

A key attraction will be the Sands Sports Park for cycling, running, equestrian activities, and hiking to encourage professional and amateur sports.

In terms of environmental goals, over 170,000 trees will be planted to achieve net zero carbon by 2060 and protect nature at the megaproject. Moreover, virtual reality (VR) and research are being used now to educate residents and plan activities to accelerate lifestyle changes.

Aside from these many plans, the Riyadh Sports Boulevard will also be an artistic megaproject as the Sports Boulevard Foundation will include certain features and design elements to retain its uniqueness when compared to other similar projects around the world.

“We are guided by the goal to improve the design quality of the City whilst maintaining the beautiful, traditional architectural identity,” McGivern informed, adding that the new buildings within the project have been designed in line with the Sport Boulevard’s “Design Code”.

“[The Design Code] is compliant with the rigorous Salmani standards of architecture, density, materials used, landscaping required and importantly, the sustainable use of power. This will help to create a distinct local identity in Riyadh which is fully sustainable. For example, in keeping with the traditional architectural identity, construction of the Sands Sports Park is underway, an unprecedented nature restoration effort which is set to be an exceptional sports desert destination extending over 17 million sqm. The Najdi flower will bloom in the heart of the Sands Sports Park, with cycling pathways constructed in the shape of the flower.”

The Salmani style is a unique architectural and structural approach that combines traditional architecture with modern techniques and materials. The Salmani style is curated by the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques, King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud. It aims to improve modern design quality while highlighting the current local architectural identity.

The Najdi flower is located in the heart of the Sands Sports Park and is a five kilometer circular pathway crafted to resemble the beautiful flower, paying homage to the indigenous plant life in the Kingdom.
 

Riyadh Sports Boulevard Challenges

McGivern said that it is a challenge to manage the existing utilities – including the removal of electrical overhead towers and cables – so that they do not clash with the Sports Boulevard’s infrastructure.

Concluded McGivern, “To address this potential risk, our contractors diligently surveyed the area to identify the precise locations of the existing utilities and cables, allowing us to incorporate this information into our project planning. She further added that the megaproject is currently constructing three underpasses with the aim of improving traffic flow in the City and establishing uninterrupted routes for the cyclists and the pedestrians. It’s important that those whose lives we briefly disrupt understand just how transformative and beneficial the infrastructure and the project more broadly will be for years to come.”

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