(Photo of the work-in-progress courtesy of Flash.)
In just six days, the UFC will hold its first-ever event in the Middle East. For those of you who assume there’s a Bojangles Coliseum available in every city in the world, let me assure you that that’s not the case. (Bojangles should be so lucky.) Instead, the historic event required that a brand-new open-air stadium be built from scratch in about 20 days. Meanwhile, my neighbor Chris has been trying to build a deck in his backyard for three years. And before you think that this stadium is just some slapped-together P.O.S., check out this article on the massive undertaking published yesterday in UAE’s English-language paper, The National:
For Lee Charteris, the director of operations for the event organisers, Flash, and the army of 300 staff and sub-contractors he commands, the work started in early December. That was when construction of a purpose-built venue that will be able to hold more than 12,000 people at the Ferrari World amusement park on Yas Island began.
He said the structures his company built for the Aerosmith and Beyoncé concerts during the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix last year were impressive enough. “I thought we had pushed the boat out. But we have gone one [step further] this time. This is the biggest thing I have ever built.”…
“We have tried to create within that space what will be the crucible, this big, high-walled amphitheatre that focuses down on the fighters,” Mr Charteris said. “We obviously provide grandstand seating at a lot of concerts, but this is different in that it’s four large grandstands…with even bigger structures behind them which house the video screens that will be showing the live fights.”
A structure above the Octagon – the cage in which the bouts take place – has been built to support the 24 tonnes of suspended audio and visual equipment needed to ensure both the spectators on hand and the millions expected to watch on pay-per-view television around the world will not be disappointed. “I would say there will be more audio for UFC than the Aerosmith concert,” Mr Charteris said. “It is bone-crushing.”
The 50th truckload of scaffolding was driven onto the site on Thursday as staff continued to work from dawn until dusk to ensure the venue would be ready to hand over to the UFC’s international team, which arrived last weekend from the UK…Shipping the Octagon from the UK and transporting it to the site was a month-long process…UFC employees have taken over two hotels on Yas Island as they have arrived over the past week on flights from around the world.
[Managing director of UFC international development Marshall] Zelaznik said UFC normally is ready in two days, but the new, outdoor venue will require additional time to test the lighting and music. The structure will be dismantled after the fights.
Wait, so the next time the UFC does an event in Abu Dhabi, they’ll have to build this whole thing all over again? Brilliant. For the record, tickets for UFC 112 are still available at boxofficeme.com. Prices range from $107.63 for nosebleed seats to $1,006.81 for floor seats. But then when you factor in airfare (about $1,500/ticket at this point) and hotel (about $2,000/night at the Burj al Arab), you’re almost better off watching it at home…