Sunday, January 18, 2015
Game Over for Badminton Hall in Puchong
THE largest badminton court in the country and Puchong landmark Michael’s Badminton Academy (MBA) is being demolished to make way for a commercial development. The popular badminton hall and local hangout spot in Bandar Puteri Puchong ceased operations on Jan 1 this year after its 10-year lease expired. The owner, IOI Properties Berhad, will be taking back the land for commercial development. As one drives by the large hall, located between a park and other commercial buildings, signs of dismantling work can be seen. The mamak stall outside the building — a popular hangout place for badminton players to have a drink and meal after their games — is no more.
Owner Michael Lee said since it opened in 2004, MBA had become a regular hangout spot for badminton fans including students and their families as well as local residents.
It had 32 courts spanning 0.80ha of land, hence its entry in the Malaysia Book of Records as the “Largest Badminton Court in Malaysia”. Several regular players said they would miss the place.
Choong Mee Fatt, 47, said it was not just a badminton hall, but also a gathering place for the local community.“MBA is a landmark in Puchong and is as well known as IOI Mall. It was a good place for youths to hang out. I feel sad that it has to be demolished,” said Choong, who is a member of the Bandar Puteri 10 Residents Association.He added that they held their RA meetings at MBA a few years ago when there was a thunderstorm and the community cabin was flooded.
“We also had dialogues with the police here and it is also the location for several community events,” he said. Another regular visitor, Steve Jong, had patronised the centre since 2007 to play with his ‘badminton kaki’, some of whom came from as far as Sungai Long, Kajang. “I have been bringing my seven-year-old daughter to play badminton here. It’s also a place for me to meet up with friends for drinks after a match.“I have made many new friends here,” said Jong, a resident of Taman Putra Prima, Puchong. “Badminton is a sport that unites as everyone can play together regardless of their background or beliefs,” he said. MBA student Toh Jern Yoong said he would now have to look for a new place to train. The 14-year-old, who is homeschooled, had undergone badminton training at the academy six times a week for the past year. “I like sports so I used to come here often. I also get to meet new friends. I want to become a professional badminton player,” said Toh.
MBA owner Michael Lee said he was sad to see his court go. “Many of my friends thought I was crazy when I decided to open my first large badminton hall in Taman Megah in 2000, with 16 courts,” said Lee, who got the idea while working in the construction business in the late 1990s.
While on a visit to Johor for work, Lee, an avid badminton player, found that most halls had only six or seven courts, and players would have to wait for a long time until one was free. “I noticed that there was a demand for it, so when I came back to the Klang Valley, I took the plunge and opened a large badminton hall,” he said. MBA was built at a cost of RM4.5mil. “Indoor badminton courts were not common back then as people used to play in the open air. “We were very lucky as there has been tremendous support from badminton players and the community in general. Even when we first opened, the place was fully booked,” said Lee. Throughout the years, MBA has hosted many tournaments, such as the inaugural Muhibbah Badminton Championship where players are teamed up with a partner of a different race. It also hosted the 13th World Chinese Badminton Championship in 2006, which was the first of its kind hosted outside China. It also acted as a training ground for about 200 students between the ages of seven and 18, led by five coaches. Lee said he was trying to identify a suitable location for a new hall and plans to have an airdome-shaped structure. “It will not be as big because of space constraints — probably 16 to 18 courts — but we plan to improve the environment, cleanliness and security,” he said.