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Official Review by Sean MacDonald, Stadium Journey Special Correspondent
Singapore is a fast-growing nation with its population growing quickly and becoming ever more affluent. New and varied entertainment options have arisen to chase those dollars, and sports are no exception. Last year saw a women’s tennis tournament played after the WTA season, and this year the inaugural Clash of Continents was held just a couple of weeks after the ATP season finished up. The format of this tournament was a round robin between four top stars, each representing their continent over two days. World #8 Janko Tipsarevic represented Europe while Kei Nishikori came from Asia, Juan Monaco from South America, and Sam Querrey from North America. A concert by British singing sensation Leona Lewis and an exhibition match between two women who seemed to be known more for their looks than their play added to the weekend festivities.
The venue was the Singapore Indoor Stadium, one of several facilities that will make up the Singapore Sports Hub, scheduled to open in 2014. The indoor stadium was first opened in 1988 and has held countless concerts and sporting events since then.
This review describes the event as opposed to the stadium, which is also home to an Asean Basketball League team and will likely have a different feel when there is more hometown support on hand.
The FANFARE scale is our metric device for rating each stadium experience. It covers the following:
Each area is rated from 0 to 5 stars with 5 being the best. The overall composite score is the "FANFARE Score".
Just inside the main entrance are a few concession stands with very little to offer. The major issue is that the hot food was served at 10:30 and had to be consumed by 2:30, so if you arrived after that, there were slim pickings indeed. A few snacks and drinks were available, but nothing filling. Even if there were hot food, I don't know if you would want to try it; hot dogs were listed at $8.
Alcohol, on the other hand, was widely available, but rather overpriced with two bottles of beer going for $25. Cocktails and wine were also on the menu but I saw very few patrons trying any sort of potent potables. Most preferred Coke at $4 or mineral water at $3.
There are five eateries located around the stadium, including Brewerkz, a microbrewery that doubles as a sports bar. My advice would be to eat beforehand at one of these places or perhaps the nearby mall known as Leisure Park Kallang, which has several decent restaurants. You might want to try bringing in some snacks from the 7/11 located there as well. There was a sign indicating that outside food and drink was not allowed, but there was nobody checking bags. Frankly with so little to choose from, it would be inhumane to prevent fans from bringing in something to tide them over as each day at the tournament lasts at least six hours.
Tennis matches usually need to be quiet as it requires immense concentration to hit a small tennis ball with a big racquet. As this was an exhibition tournament though, a few noises from around the stadium were permitted with no issues. The players were in a good mood, acting in ways that they would not if this were a serious tour event. That helped keep the fans entertained during play. When there was a break in the action, music was played at an acceptable level and helped pass the time while the players rested. All in all, a relaxing atmosphere for an event that was more social than serious.
The stadium is part of the Singapore Sports Hub, a collection of five sporting venues surrounded by retail and residential space that promises to be a great destination when it opens in 2014. At the moment, the Indoor Stadium is the only facility operating, and the rest of the area is dominated by construction with little else to see. The previously mentioned Leisure Park Kallang is the highlight, with cinemas, a skating rink, and a bowling alley all providing entertainment options for the whole family.
If you are looking for something a bit more mature, you will need to take the MRT a few stops to downtown where there are plenty of eating and drinking options along Boat, Clarke, or Robertson Quays.
The concert by Leona Lewis on Sunday afternoon attracted a great number of her fans who weren't particularly interested in the tennis. For those who were there for the sport though, they were polite until they were told that Kei Nishikori was withdrawing from his final match against Janko Tipsarevic, at which point there were scattered boos. Given that they had paid for two main matches on the Sunday, they should have been angrier, but such is the nature of an exhibition tournament with just four players.
During the action there were occasional shouts of encouragement and polite applause or oohs and aahs at a great shot, exactly the sort of behavior one would expect. It would have been nice to have more fans as only 7,614 showed up, just over 50% of capacity.
Singapore Indoor Stadium is just a couple of minutes from the Stadium station on the MRT's Circle Line. This central location is helped by a recent renovation that makes the stadium easy to navigate with a wide concourse, balconies on each of the four sides, and a good seating plan with plenty of leg room in each row. Sightlines to the tennis court are unblocked and you can move from seat to seat without being accosted by an usher, allowing you to find the spot that suits you best. Most fans preferred to sit behind one of the players, replicating the view you get when you watch on TV. I sat in the balcony across from the chair umpire for most of the main match and had the entire area to myself as everybody else prefers to stay down closer to the action.
Washrooms are located down stairwells which might be the only negative point in a venue that is very well-designed and a pleasure to visit.
Tickets ranged from $150 for arena seats to $60 for balcony, with the terrace seats at $90. Given that this would allow you two full days of tennis (seven matches in all) along with the concert, I think that the lower priced options are fair value for tennis fans. However, having one of the six men's matches cancelled at the last minute (Nishikori withdrew from his match against Tipsarevic) was particularly discouraging for those who only showed up on Sunday and did not have a chance to see the best player in the tournament show his stuff.
The Leona Lewis concert was a nice break between the tennis on Sunday afternoon. Combining music and sport is not unique to the Super Bowl and I find it quite enjoyable to see a famous artist perform at no extra cost.
There were some "kids' courts" at the south entrance where children could practice with soft tennis balls, as well as a section sponsored by "Tennis for the Blind" where you could be blindfolded and try to hit large tennis balls that were equipped with bells. This was not marketed as well as it could have been, but was still crowded with fans throughout the afternoon.
After each match, players hit autographed balls into the crowd.
The venue also has a Jack Daniels Sky Bar but it was not in use during the Clash of Continents.
2012 was the first Clash of Continents and it was deemed a success by organizers with around 7,000 fans showing up each day. There is no guarantee that the event will be held in 2013, but if it is, it would provide tennis fans a good opportunity to see the Singapore Indoor Stadium, the first of five venues that will turn Singapore into a premier sports destination in 2014 and beyond.
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