All eyes on Empire City, ice rink section to open for SEA Games in August

Ongoing construction at Empire City Damansara. The mall will house an Olympic-sized ice skating rink. Ongoing construction at Empire City Damansara. The mall will house an Olympic-sized ice skating rink.

SEA Games ice hockey and figure skating to be held in the mall’s ice skating rink.

After 16 years, Kuala Lumpur will be hosting the 29th SEA Games which starts on 19 August (this year). Thus far, there have been updates on the different venues from Malaysian Resources Corp Bhd’s upgrading and regeneration works at KL Sports City in Bukit Jalil to the National Velodrome in Nilai.

All in, there will be about 15 venues divided into three clusters where 405 events from 38 sports will be contested.

Among the several new events that will be featured in this year’s SEA Games, which is held every two years, two of them – ice hockey and figure skating – will need a sizeable ice skating rink.

Interestingly, the search for that freeze box has stopped at Empire City – a 28-acre development in Damansara Perdana, Petaling Jaya, that is still today pretty much a construction site.

According to sources from the SEA Games secretariat, Empire City as a venue for ice hockey and figure skating has been “confirmed”, with training schedule and actual event days lined up and scheduled right down to the hour – these being 25, 27 and 28 August with training as early as 7am on one of those days. The finals will be held on 30 August.

“The Empire City mall may not be completed today but the ice skating rink will be completed by 1 February,” a source from the SEA Games secretariat says.

According to two sources, Mammoth Empire group, the developer of the mixed integrated development, told them last year that the skating rink will be completed by 1 February.

Discussions are ongoing, one source says.

Ironically, as one drives on the Lebuhraya Damansara-Puchong (LDP), Empire City is still very pretty much a construction site.

There are currently two ice skating rinks in the Klang Valley. Sunway Pyramid in Bandar Sunway, Petaling Jaya, has one with the larger one at IOI City Mall in Putrajaya. (There is also a small leisure ice rink at The Royale Chulan Damansara Hotel in nearby Mutiara Damansara.)

The Sunway Pyramid skating rink was the venue for Skate Asia five times and ice hockey events a few times, says Sunway Bhd CEO of Shopping Malls and Theme Parks, H.C. Chan.

Utilities and staff cost are the main components, says Chan. Ice meltdown and refreshing takes two weeks and involves the cleaning and maintenance work of the piping system.

A source from the sports fraternity says the Sunway venue is unsuitable because there is no seating arrangement for VIPs and spectators. There is also no suitable changing rooms for the competitors or coach meeting rooms.

The Sunway ice skating rink is 39 m x 22.5 m, a source from Sunway group says.

IOI City Mall has an Olympic-sized rink with a 30 m x 60 m iced surface. It is the largest iced surface in Malaysia, its website says.

The source from the sports fraternity says Empire City was selected because it offers spectator seating area although IOI City Mall offers this as well.

The coming SEA Games and the selection of Empire City as a venue, although not considered as a main one as there are other bigger clusters offering different venues, has nonetheless added a bit of heat to the already controversial project.

Last year, on the social media, a series of accusations flew back and forth in the first half of the year. Although the complaints have died down, the coming Games has once against shone the spotlight on the development.

The heat from the spotlight can be rather hot this time around because it involves Malaysia as a host country. The previous venue was Singapore in 2015.

The real hullabaloo with regards to that massive construction site started a couple of years ago.

Around the middle of 2015, the developer gave buyers of certain blocks vacant possession. Of the 12 blocks, Mammoth Empire group has handed six to the buyers, according to press reports.

On giving vacant possession, it also began to charge purchasers of the units the monthly maintenance charges of between 30 sen and 40 sen per sq ft, although the units were not issued with Certificate of Completion and Compliance (CCC).

Giving buyers vacant possession also effectively triggers their mortgage payments.

Normally, the delivery of vacant possession should come with the CCC, which effectively means the owner can move in, rent or sell the unit.

The delivery of vacant possession also includes the handing over of keys of the parcel to the buyer, with water and electricity supply ready for connection, says National House Buyers Association secretary-general Chang Kim Loong in one of his columns.

In the Empire City case, the developer gave vacant possession and the keys and mortgage payments and service charges kicked in but without the CCC, the unit is not ready or suitable for habitation.

Flipping the units will also be a challenge.

[It is worth to note that stratified units at Empire City are sold as commercial-titled, commercial-use units. The units did not need to comply with the Housing Development Act (HDA) and did not fall under the purview of the Ministry of Housing.]

In an interview with StarBizWeek in March 2016, Mammoth Empire Holdings Sdn Bhd group executive director Datuk Danny J.Y. Cheah said “our lawyers made it very clear to them (buyers) that we would hand over the units once they were ready.” He did not define what he meant by “ready”.

At that same interview, Cheah also said the mall is owned by the group and there is no obligation to complete it on time. Dates for the opening were extended a couple of times.

Since that interview in March 2016, the company has declined to respond to questions about the six blocks which they have given vacant possession. It also did not response to questions about Empire City being a venue for the SEA Games events.


News Source: The Star BizWeek, 7 January 2017

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