The iconic Sydney Entertainment Centre hosted its last sporting event last Sunday while Elton John brought the curtain down for the final time on Saturday, with the venue now to be demolished.
Since opening its doors in 1983, the Entertainment Centre (currently known as the Qantas Credit Union Arena due to naming-rights) has hosted a range of events. In regards to sport, while it has hosted Netball, Tennis, Boxing and Wrestling, it’s best known as the home venue of NBL side Sydney Kings.
The Kings moved to the “Kingdome” in 1990 from the 5,000-capacity State Sports Centre at Homebush, two years after their inception. Moving from the much smaller Sports Centre to the Entertainment Centre in the CBD seemed crazy at the time, however the club averaged 8,000 per game in their first season there and sold-out all but one game the following year at the 10,500-capacity venue.
"The secret was that a lot of the crowd weren’t basketball people," former coach Bob Turner says. "We promoted the venue as being easy to get to, you could have dinner first, maybe at Chinatown, come to the basketball and then maybe go to a bar afterwards. It was a great night out.
"We promoted it like Madison Square Garden. It had a great atmosphere and it gave the sport so much more credibility. The corporates came, sponsors, and by the time I left in 1995 we were making a million dollars a year in profit."
The Kings moved to the new 18,000-capacity Sydney SuperDome at Homebush in 1999 and despite attracting an NBL record 17,803 fans to a local derby against the Razorbacks, falling crowds forced the club back to the Entertainment Centre after two seasons.
Fast forward to 2015, the Sydney Entertainment is the oldest venue in the NBL and while it’s clear time is up for the 32 year-old venue, what’s unclear in the future of basketball and indeed all major indoor sporting events in the Sydney CBD. The Kings played their final game at the venue last Sunday in front of almost 9,000 fans.
The Entertainment Centre was due to be demolished in late 2013 however a last-minute naming rights agreement with Qantas Credit Union extended the life of the venue for another two years.
Following Saturday’s final event, assets will be cleared out and the keys handed to construction company Lend Lease on New Year’s Eve. Hoarding will be erected and demolition will start in late January and take around three months.
The replacement facility is the new Sydney International Convention Centre – located nearby and expected to open in December 2016. The new venue will featuring three theatres, of 9000, 2500 and 1000 capacity, however like the Melbourne Convention Centre, will not be able to host sporting events such as Basketball, Netball and Tennis.
Sydney will be left without an inner-city indoor sports facility. The Sydney Kings will relocate back to the State Sports Centre at Homebush – located some 16km from the CBD. While there has been talk of a new 12,000-seat indoor sports facility near the city as part of Sydney’s stadium overhaul, nothing has been confirmed to date.