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Polo club sets exclusive tone at luxury Tianjin mini-city

TIANJIN: A massive complex now under construction in Tianjin and including business, residential, sporting and commercial developments is monumental in both scope and scale.

The first phase of the development, which is located in Tianjin's Binhai hi-tech park, is the 1.6 billion yuan (RM739.72 million) Tianjin Goldin Metropolitan Polo Club and Hotel.

It features two international-standard polo fields, stabling for 150 horses, a 167-room hotel, 10 restaurants, a three-storey wine cellar with a capacity of 10,000 bottles, a business centre, a ballroom for 1,000 guests, plus conference rooms, spas, gymnasiums and a Roman-styled indoor swimming pool.

But that is just the icing on a very large cake. Still to be developed are 2,000 apartments and villas, a 117-storey office tower with space for 3,000 to 4,000 workers, and retail and entertainment zones that include a theme park and theatre.

Once completed the project, which is backed by Hong Kong-listed Goldin Properties Holdings, will be a self-contained mini-city.

"We are not just building buildings, we are building communities," Rowland Wong, president of the polo club, said.

An hour's drive from Beijing, the development is taking shape on the western outskirts of Tianjin city, one of the mainland's fastest-growing economic strongholds.

So far, Goldin has put 10 billion yuan into the project. The polo club opened in November, while the hotel, conference facilities, and restaurants should be open for business soon. Construction continues apace on the apartments and villas, which will be launched in June. The office tower comes next, with the full project set for completion in 2015.

The choice to open the polo club first may seem unusual. After all, why build world-standard facilities to cater for a sport hardly known in China with an associated large hotel in a largely empty industrial zone miles from any alternative scenic or historic attractions that would otherwise lure visitors?

The development schedule is, however, visionary. Polo, a lavishly expensive sport indulged in by the wealthy across the world, is often seen by aspirant wealthy on the mainland as the pinnacle of high society. By creating a polo club, the developers are "bringing the spirit of nobility" to Tianjin, as Wong sees it.

This sounds grand. But it is also practical and many would argue that this part of Tianjin sorely needs an injection of nobility if the mainland's upwardly mobile are to be attracted here to live or work.

The polo club, so the reasoning goes, will create a lifestyle image for people to buy into.

"Lifestyle is our main theme, and the polo club sets the tone," says Francis Yeung, director of residential sales at Goldin Properties.

But the noble spirit comes with an appropriately noble price tag. The club facilities will be for members only, and membership will set you back 10 million yuan upfront, plus a further 10,000 yuan a month fee for the highest category of membership, to be called "Patron", which comes by invitation only and offers the chance to form one's own polo team.

Others memberships will range in price from 380,000 yuan to two million yuan. So far, no one has signed up for membership, although it is early days, the club having been launched just last month.

Ellen Ng, mother of Jacqueline and Jasmine Lai who both represent Hong Kong in international equestrian competitions, visited the club. The facilities looked impressive and would be good for athletes and spectators, said Ng, but she was surprised by the cost of membership.

The facilities feature two million sq ft of space designed to keep members plied with food and drink, entertainment, and networking opportunities.

The hotel's flagship restaurant, Le Pan by Voon, is Tianjin's first haute cuisine French restaurant and offers a chef's table costing 10,000 yuan a head, with delicacies whipped up on the US$1 million (RM3.04 million) stove imported from Italy.

The hotel suites will cost around 8,000 yuan a night. — SCMP

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