Expansion plans may be squashed

Expansion plans may be squashed

SINGAPORE - For more than 30 years, it has hosted many high-profile competitions, but time may be running out for the Kallang Squash Centre.

As part of Sport Singapore's (SportSG) long-term masterplan, the Kallang precinct, which includes the surrounding area that borders the 35-hectare Sports Hub on which the Singapore Squash Rackets Association's (SSRA) six-court facility currently sits, is up for redevelopment.

The Straits Times understands that the national sports agency has raised the possibility of the SSRA establishing its base in Punggol at a new Regional Sports Centre planned for construction.

Such a move away from its central and convenient location at Kallang will be a blow to SSRA's efforts to revive the once-popular sport, said its president Woffles Wu.

He added: "If we were moving to a world-class facility with more courts that could allow us to host international tournaments then that would be promising.

"But if we can expand and refurbish Kallang, that would be ideal. This is the home of squash and we've been here since the 1970s."

A SportSG spokesman said: "There are presently no plans to relocate the Singapore Squash Rackets Association and/or its squash courts."

But he declined to comment on the agency's long-term expansion strategy for Kallang.

While a permanent blueprint remains unclear, the SSRA has been assured that there will be minimal disruption in the short term as they attempt to transform the ailing sport and concentrate on hosting the SEA Games in June.

"That's something at least and I can focus my efforts on finding sponsors and increasing mass participation," said Wu, a prominent plastic surgeon.

He was responsible for securing the $200,000 title sponsorship over five years by food company Old Chang Kee for the struggling Singapore Open.

In October, Singapore will host the inaugural Lion City Cup, a US$100,000 (S$133,000) tournament and an official leg of the prestigious World Series, which is the most lucrative and in the highest tier of events on the Professional Squash Association circuit.

Wu and his team face a tough battle though. The decline of Singapore's dominance in squash - the nation won 10 SEA Games gold medals from 1991 to 1995 but none since then - has been matched by its sharp drop in popularity coupled with the closure of many public courts.

In 1987, squash had a national participation rate of 4.7 per cent and in 1990 there were 300 public courts available. There are just 19 remaining, from Kallang to squash centres in Yio Chu Kang, St Wilfrid and Burghley Drive.

According to data from the most recent National Sports Participation Survey in 2011, that figure has fallen to 0.32 per cent, or 10,374 regular participants - those who have played it at least weekly in the past three months.

Noted Wu: "What we need is more courts. Squash is moving in the right direction and we need the support of SportSG to help us achieve our aims."

jonwong@sph.com.sg


This article was first published on Jan 10, 2015.
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