Guy Ngata, AEG Ogden’s CEO of Coca-Cola Arena, discusses the sporting potential of Dubai’s eagerly anticipated new entertainment venue. 

The Coca-Cola Arena opened to much fanfare this month, with Maroon 5, comedian Russell Peters and Westlife among the early acts slated to perform there. Beyond renowned entertainers, however, is the opportunity for Dubai to end its rigidly seasonal sporting calendar and offer a home for elite sporting events during the scorching summer months.

This is a particularly exciting prospect for Guy Ngata, AEG Ogden’s CEO of Coca-Cola Arena. Having previously worked for AEG Ogden on major sporting projects including Eden Park in his native New Zealand and the Mercedes-Benz Arena in Shanghai, the sporting possibilities of a 17,000-capacity indoor arena are certainly not lost on him.

“The fact we will be able to host sporting events through the typical off season in the summer months will be a huge plus to the already fantastic line up of sporting events in the country through the winter,” Ngata tells Sport Industry Insider. “In many ways, Coca-Cola Arena is now able to extend the sporting calendar to 12 months which is an exciting prospect.

“World-class sporting events also deserve amazing atmospheres and with the way Coca-Cola Arena is built, the atmosphere created inside the bowl will really enhance the live experience for any sporting event inside the building. This all combines to create another great dimension to the UAE’s sporting landscape and ability to attract the very best stars.

“Being able to host any events though the summer months is also key, not just sporting activity.  Coca-Cola Arena enables the people of Dubai to continue to engage with major events during a period which typically has limited options.”

What exactly those sporting events will be remains to be seen but with established travelling brands like the NBA and WWE showing an interest in the region, the Coca-Cola Arena is likely to be an attractive option for those looking at Dubai as a potential location.

We are working on a number of sporting events of a scale suitable for Coca-Cola Arena,” Ngata says. “Typically, these do require a long lead time though I will say sporting activity is a focus for us.

“The above [NBA and WWE] we are looking at and more such as NHL, other basketball leagues, motocross, e-sports, tennis and kabaddi to name a few. Coca-Cola Arena allows Dubai to further extend the world-class events in the city.”

Coca-Cola has a long history of sport sponsorship, having partnered with the likes of NASCAR, NBA, NCAA, the Olympic Games, FIFA World Cup, Special Olympics and PGA Tour. Those sporting links are a key part of the synergy with Dubai’s new arena, according to Ngata.

Coca-Cola was one of the initial companies we spoke with here in Dubai and once we knew there was significant interest, the intent to close a deal between the parties was very clear.  All parties are delighted with the outcome and partnership and the journey we will share together.

Entertainment and sport is in the DNA of Coca-Cola so there is a clear synergy between them and the diversity of content vision we have for the now Coca-Cola Arena.  Over the coming months, customers and fans will see a wide range of opportunities to engage and benefit from Coca-Cola’s key involvement.”

More of the Coca-Cola Arena’s commercial partnerships are expected to be confirmed soon, as the venue looks to capitalise on the momentum of the launch and the announcement of the 10-year naming rights deal with the soft drink giant.

“We have just announced RAKBANK as our first founding partner in the retail banking category and we are delighted with that,” Ngata says. “There will be a number of others in the near future, further highlighting how Coca-Cola Arena will enable a number of partners to leverage their brand but also to engage with a diverse range of patrons and fans across a broad range of events.

The partnership and commercial programme was a process in line with what we have seen in other markets.  Articulating the offering and shaping the opportunity was step one and having such a unique asset was key.  We have had a commitment from a number of partners now for many months and it has just been a case of finalising the detail and looking at the right time to announce those relationships.”

Ngata’s experience of opening arena projects elsewhere in Asia has proven invaluable for the Coca-Cola Arena and the New Zealander insists getting the simple things right is the most important part of the launch process.

I have been fortunate to have led teams across a number of venues in the entertainment and sporting industry globally. There are learnings from all but without making it sound straightforward there is a need to deliver on fundamentals first and foremost.

“A world-class venue that is operationally sound and can facilitate a diversity of events; a willingness to form great partnerships based on mutual benefit; programming that excites and delights a broad cross section of the community in which you are based. And of course, a fan-first focus to customer service.”