Inside Riyadh's Kingdom Arena, Saudi Arabia's new sports and entertainment centre

The stadium will host to a Messi-Ronaldo showdown this week

Powered by automated translation

In the few months since it opened, Riyadh's Kingdom Arena has hosted some of the world's biggest stars.

The 26,000-seat venue in the Hittin neighbourhood of the city was packed out on Monday to see Saudi Pro League side Al Hilal play Lionel Messi's Inter Miami as part of the Riyadh Season Cup football tournament.

It was the first time Kingdom Arena – formerly known as Boulevard Hall – hosted an event under its new name.

The multipurpose venue, which can host football, basketball, tennis and boxing, as well as live concerts, was built for Riyadh Season – the winter arts and culture festival that takes place over five months in the Saudi capital.

Its retractable roof means the venue can be used year-round. Inside, the stadium has 20 VIP boxes that can accommodate 350 people.

There's also a jumbotron – a four-sided video screen similar to those found in US basketball and ice hockey stadiums – hanging from the roof.

Part of the Boulevard City development, the structure was built in 60 days and was ready just in time for WBC champion Tyson Fury's fight against former UFC heavyweight title holder Francis Ngannou on October 28.

Last dance

It gives Riyadh football club Al Hilal a permanent home, having previously played at King Fahd International Stadium, Prince Faisal bin Fahd Stadium and King Saud University.

In September, Al Hilal signed an agreement with the General Entertainment Authority to play their home games at Boulevard Hall.

The 40 million Saudi riyal-a-year ($10.6 million) agreement included renaming the venue Kingdom Arena, after Prince Al Waleed bin Talal, a long-standing backer of Al-Hilal and founder of the Kingdom Holding Company, contributed 25 million riyals to the deal.

The venue will be full again on Thursday for the second match of the Riyadh Season Cup, which will see Lionel Messi, 36, face his long-time rival Cristiano Ronaldo, 38, in the Inter Miami vs Al-Nassr clash.

The match has been dubbed “The Last Dance” as it could be the final time the two football greats play on the same pitch.

Messi spent most of his career with Barcelona where he regularly battled arch-rival Real Madrid, spearheaded by Ronaldo between 2009 and 2018.

Off the pitch, their rivalry extended to the quest for individual awards, chiefly the Ballon d'Or, with Messi winning eight following his success in the 2023 poll and Ronaldo having five, the last of which came in 2017.

Their head-to-head record stands at 17 wins for Messi, 11 for Ronaldo and 9 draws.

On February 17, the eyes of the boxing world will be on Kingdom Arena when the heavyweight division is expected to crown an undisputed champion for the first time in almost 25 years with the meeting of Tyson Fury and Oleksandr Usyk, the WBA, IBF and WBO champion.

Boxing was the first major event to be hosted at the then Boulevard Hall when Fury faced former UFC heavyweight title-holder Ngannou.

The high-profile fight, billed as the “Battle of the Baddest” was attended by musicians Eminem and Kanye West, as well as Ronaldo.

Anthony Joshua defeated Otto Wallin at the same venue in December, which saw Joseph Parker defeat former world heavyweight champion Deontay Wilder in a unanimous points decision in the co-headline bout.

In June, the venue will host the kingdom's first UFC fight night. The event was due to take place on March 2, but was rescheduled to “ensure the best calibre of talent will be available”, Turki Alalshikh, chairman of the General Authority for Entertainment in Saudi Arabia, said on social media.

Updated: January 31, 2024, 11:26 AM