A global sports centre to churn out the legends of tomorrow

Bengaluru | Updated on November 07, 2018

(from left) Rahul Dravid, former Test captain; Prakash Padukone, badminton legend, and Vivek Kumar, founder and Director, at the Padukone-Dravid Centre for Sports Excellence, in Yelahanka, near Bengaluru   -  BL

The centre has 16 badminton courts built to world tournament standards   -  All photos by SOMASHEKAR GRN

A sports assessment and rehabilitation facility at the centre   -  SOMASHEKAR GRN

The Padukone-Dravid Centre, spread over 15 acres, will focus on six sports

Prakash Padukone is emphatic when he says that today’s top sportsmen cannot carp any longer about lack of world-class facilities to train. And there’s enough money in the system too. “If sportspersons don’t do well, then I would blame them entirely. If we don’t win medals in the Olympics, it is either due to lack of talent or hard work. There are enough institutions to support them but, in return, promise a medal,” says the badminton legend.

To get its young wards to train at precisely such world-class facilities, in February this year the Tata Capital-sponsored Prakash Padukone Badminton Academy, with its chief coach Vimal Kumar, moved to the Padukone-Dravid Centre for Sports Excellence, named jointly after another Karnataka sports legend.

Around 4 km off the expressway to Bengaluru’s airport lies the sports centre, spread over 15 acres amid swaying casuarina groves, fields and fast-developing apartments. To the left of the entrance to the plush and orderly sports enclave is a lush, green football field with smaller practice fields. Inside, it’s a sportsman’s delight: 16 badminton courts built to world tournament standards; an Olympic-sized swimming pool with a smaller indoor, heated pool; tennis and squash courts, a cricket field as well as an indoor nets facility where Virat Kohli and team had also trained.

The sports centre will focus on six sports, points out Vivek Kumar, sportsman (who played badminton for Karnataka) and entrepreneur, along with his wife Shama Kittur (who represented India in badminton). Badminton, cricket, football, squash, tennis and swimming are the focus sports, each of them run by different academies (which pay the sports centre for use of the facilities) headed by sportsmen of eminence.

More facilities

The cricket academy is sponsored by Cult Fitness, promoted by former Myntra promoter Mukesh Bansal. Dieticians, nutritionists, physios, sports psychologists, you name it, they are available for the 700 sportspersons who train at the centre, many of them from other parts of the country.

Olympian Abhinav Bindra has set up a sports assessment and rehabilitation centre here, investing from a grant he received from the Sports Authority of India. The centre has an assessment and training wing, a Pilates room and a therapy machine (for acute pain relief).

Rahul Dravid, who is co-Chairman of the sports centre along with Padukone, says he values his mentorship role. “There is a lot of joy when I come here. I can see players with dreams in their eyes. I try to help ensure that the facility maintains its standard,” he says. Asked if cricket is already supported well enough, Dravid says more such centres of excellence are needed. “During the last decade, players coming from smaller towns have been doing very well. They have to be supported with international facilities like these. The pool of cricketers has grown bigger,” he explains. Dravid himself does not coach at the centre as he is already coaching the India U-19 team.

Vivek, who has so far invested ₹65 crore in setting up the facilities, shortly intends to open up membership of the upcoming club house to sports-loving individuals and corporates. They will have access to play all the racquet sports, use the fitness centres and get a free assessment of their physical state at the sports rehab centre. “They could play or practise alongside an international sportsperson and their fees could actually subsidise the facilities for the sportspersons,” says Vivek. The centre will also host a couple of restaurants for members that could serve wine and beer. The break-even for the project, he expects, will happen in 6-8 years and will depend on the membership response.

In a year’s time, a residential block will be ready across from the sports centre. Spread over one acre it can take in 300 students/players in a dorm set-up and 25 double rooms are also planned. Vivek expects another ₹3 crore of capex to be spent on completing these facilities.

The building right in front of the sports facility will eventually house a sports museum that will honour India’s international sportsmen and feature sports memorabilia. With the museum, Padukone expects the centre will emerge as a must-see tourist destination. Looking around the sports centre, Prakash says wryly, that it’s a far cry from the Canara Union hall where he started playing in his early years and rose to fame.

Published on November 07, 2018

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