By David Jen

The first phase of the world’s largest linear park will soon open in Saudi Arabia’s capital city, Riyadh.

aerial view of water in an urban setting
Image courtesy Sports Boulevard Foundation

When complete, the 135 km Sports Boulevard will boast more than 220 km of cycling paths, 123 km of horse trails, and 4.4 million sq m of green and open spaces, according to Saudi Arabia’s Vision 2030 plan. The paths will connect some 2.3 million sq m of investment areas with features such as a water canal, residential and retail spaces, and a rural resort surrounded by sand dunes.

Roughly 2.2 million residents will live within a 15-minute bike ride or 30-minute walk of the gigantic park.

“The project is a key component of the Saudi Vision 2030 and (the) stated goal of becoming one of the top 100 cities in the world, eventually achieving the highest ranking possible,” according to the Royal Commission for Riyadh City.

overview of water among sidewalks
Image courtesy Sports Boulevard Foundation

Sports Boulevard’s Hanifah Valley Zone, which began construction in 2021, will be the project’s first area to open. Stretching 30 km from the region’s Al Olab Dam to Al Madina Al Monawara Road, the zone will provide paths for pedestrians, cyclists, and equestrians as well as cafes, retail spaces, and bicycle maintenance stations.

“The Sports Boulevard will transform Riyadh into one of the world’s best places to live and work,” says Jayne McGivern, the CEO of the Sports Boulevard Foundation, who was quoted in press material. “It will encourage an active lifestyle and well-being with sustainability at its core in alignment with the Vision 2030 objectives. It will be an economic driver, as industries across diverse sectors can take advantage of the investment opportunities that are already being created.”

Saudi Arabian King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud also announced three other major Riyadh projects alongside the Sports Boulevard in 2019. King Salman Park will be a 16 sq km urban park in Riyadh with some 1 million trees, Green Riyadh is an initiative to improve Riyadh’s air quality and reduce temperatures, and Riyadh Art describes plans for the government to invest in public art, aiming to deliver more than 1,000 art installations.

aerial view of sports field among urban setting
Image courtesy Sports Boulevard Foundation

Eight zones and districts will divide the Sports Boulevard.

The 4 km Entertainment District, for example, will include a viaduct dedicated to professional cyclists while amateur cyclists can use an at-grade track. Cinemas, a theater, and an outdoor movie theater will provide residents year-round activities, while cooling-equipped parks and gardens will offer respite during the summers.

The Athletics District will feature 60 sports sites, including 16 soccer fields, 18 covered basketball and tennis courts, 12 volleyball courts, and a venue for skiing. It will also be home to a high-rise sports tower with indoor sports facilities through its various floors.

The Arts District will extend 3 km from King Khalid Road and provide an array of museums, libraries, studios, art forums, and conference halls.

overview of urban setting with trees and buildings
Image courtesy Sports Boulevard Foundation

In addition to these and Hanifah Valley, the linear park will feature the 3.5 km Urban Wadi Zone, the 14 km Environmental Zone, the 53 km Al Sulai Valley Zone, and Red Sand Park, according to the Royal Commission.

When complete, the park will increase Riyadh’s per-capita green space by 50%, adding 16 playgrounds, 48 gardens, and 60 sports venues to the city.

This article is published by Civil Engineering Online.