In the latest of our ‘Sport Industry Insider Meets…’ series, we talk to Guy Ngata, the Chief Executive Officer of the new Dubai Arena project at City Walk.
Ngata has led major arena and stadium developments around the globe for more than a decade, including the iconic Eden Park in his native New Zealand and the Mercedes-Benz Arena in Shanghai.
Now tasked with delivering the UAE’s most ambitious arena project to date, Ngata discusses the important role sport has played, and continues to play, in his life.
Sibling rivalry is healthy, particularly on the tennis court.
Both of my parents loved sports and instilled in both my brothers and I a passion for a variety of sports growing up. Sport gave us an appetite for competition and that has definitely not diminished as adults. Whenever my middle brother and I meet up, wherever in the world that may be, we will play tennis. It usually becomes pretty competitive very quickly and we both still always want to win.
Sport is about challenging yourself physically and mentally.
I’ve always preferred working in teams, both playing sport and during my career. There’s something special about bringing together a diversity of people, with varying personalities and cultures, to achieve a common goal. It’s satisfying watching someone else achieve their goals out on the pitch and it’s satisfying leading your own team to successfully complete a project.
Being from New Zealand, rugby is in my blood.
My earliest sporting memory is running around on a rugby field in Auckland for the Marist Rugby Club. My mum described it as ‘bees buzzing around a honey pot’ as there wasn’t a whole lot of structure but saying that we all loved to play. To go from that in my childhood to becoming CEO of Eden Park, such a historic venue for rugby in New Zealand, was incredibly rewarding.
My grandfather loved Ben Hogan.
We sat and listened to him talk about this American golfer who was one of the all-time greats. He was my grandfather’s sporting idol and so he became ours too. As a Kiwi I also admire a number of our rugby players. New Zealand has had some incredible captains and both Sean Fitzpatrick (when I was growing up), and more recently Richie McCaw are definite sporting icons who have been courageous and inspiring in their leadership styles.
I watched Jonah Lomu’s debut for the All Blacks in 1994.
Unfortunately, New Zealand lost against France – thanks to one of the greatest tries I’ve ever seen. People still talk about it. The “try from the end of the world” as its referred to still sits in sporting folk lore. 24 years later and the All Blacks have not lost at Eden Park since that day.
The atmosphere in Auckland for last year’s Lions’ series was electric.
I’ve been lucky enough to attend some incredible events around the world from NBA basketball in the United States to the Australian Open Tennis. But one of the highlights of my most recent time working in New Zealand was hosting the British & Irish Lions v All Blacks at Eden Park last July. The All Blacks won the first Test, the Lions won the second, and the third was a unique sporting occasion – a drawn 3rd test and a drawn series left a lot of people confused and unhappy that there wasn’t an outright winner. But it was two great teams, battling hard and sharing the spoils. What’s wrong with that?
Sport in the UAE is booming, but it can get even better.
I’ve only been in the UAE since November so I’m still exploring the sports scene here. The Dubai Rugby Sevens in December was brilliant given the multicultural make-up of people attending – it blew me away. We’re looking to host major world-class events including sporting activities at Dubai Arena which I’m sure will further enhance the events landscape here in the UAE.
I was Dubai Arena’s first employee on the ground.
That obviously presents certain challenges but it’s been great to grow the team and now we are working with a number of high-profile international sporting and entertainment organisations (along with many other event rights holders) to secure major events for the Arena. We are excited about a number of announcements, which will come later in the year.
We may be in Dubai but we see ourselves as a venue for the region.
Although the Dubai Arena is located in the heart of Dubai, at City Walk, this project is an opportunity for the whole of the Gulf. The Arena is just a 15-minute drive from Dubai International Airport and a 5-minute walk from the closest Dubai Metro Station, making it easily accessible for both residents and tourists alike.
We want to drive visitation which is an important part of the 2020 vision and beyond for Dubai and the UAE. For me, it’s about bringing people together. I’ve been very fortunate to work with some extraordinary teams in different markets and the most satisfying result is always when we see the venues that we’ve worked on have a tangible positive impact on local communities. That’s what we’re looking for from Dubai Arena too.
— Dubai Media Office (@DXBMediaOffice) November 8, 2016
About Dubai Arena
Opening in 2019, Dubai Arena will revolutionise the live entertainment industry in the UAE and throughout Middle East.
Capable of hosting live shows 365 days a year, the fully air-conditioned, 17,000-seater venue will establish Dubai as a major destination on the global events circuit.
Dubai Arena’s unique automated seating design means it can be adapted to international and local events of all sizes, from sporting tournaments, e-gaming, comedy and live theatre and musical performances, to conferences, gala dinners, AGMs and weddings.
Located in the heart of City Walk, Dubai’s lifestyle destination, Dubai Arena is a 15-minute drive from Dubai International Airport and a 5-minute walk from the closest Dubai Metro Station.
The region’s largest indoor arena, Dubai Arena is owned by Meraas, a Dubai-based holding company, and managed by AEG Ogden, the international venue management company.