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Water Cube closes for major facelift

The National Aquatics Center, better known as the Water Cube, will undergo a closed-door facelift over the next few months to build a number of recreational amenities for the public, including a 10,000-square-meter water playground.

Operators of the center said the reconstruction is necessary to sustain the Water Cube's post-Olympics popularity and meet public demands clamoring for more water recreation.

It is also hoping to increase revenue. Since the center's official opening last October, public ticket sales have contributed about 70 percent of its total revenue.

Although ticket sales have so far remained brisk a year later - at about 15,000 per day - operators said the major renovation "would help the stadium provide better service and engage more visitors," according to an announcement posted online over the weekend by Beijing National Aquatic Center Co Ltd, a subsidiary of Beijing State-owned Assets Management Co Ltd.

The renovation, which starts this Thursday and will last until June next year, would comprise the removal of approximately 10,000 temporary seats and stands installed during the Olympics.

"The needs of the public calling for exercise on normal days will be met without sacrificing the stadium's function as a host of sporting events since there will still be 6,000 permanent seats," said a staff member surnamed Cai from the center's publicity department.

She also said the company is looking into constructing new facilities in the Cube that will only be accessible with added fees in an effort to generate revenue. The price of admission to the center, 50 yuan ($7.32), will remain unchanged.

Official figures indicate that the stadium has earned more than 100 million yuan from last October to May this year amid widespread public concern over the sustainability of its popularity after the Olympics.

Wang Xiaoying, from Liaoning province who was making her third visit to the Cube yesterday, said she was disappointed the stadium had not changed at all since last year.

"It needs some changes to retain the visitors," she said. "It took me only 10 minutes to complete the tour, and we are not allowed to swim in the pool, only standing afar for a view. It's a pity the operators haven't developed as many recreational amenities as we expected."

"Renovation would of course make the stadium more popular with the public," said Akhlaq Ahmed, a research fellow from Pakistan. "But the operators need to first enhance its management capability since the growth of tourists would increase maintenance fees and management difficulties."