Tone set for revamp of Wollongong venues


Australia Wollongong new district Image: WIN Entertainment Centre, Gareth Edwards, CC BY-SA 3.0

The Wollongong City Council has provided a report to the New South Wales (NSW) (Australia) Government that sets out the context and a process for the redevelopment of the Illawarra Sports and Entertainment Precinct, which includes the Venues NSW assets of WIN Entertainment Centre, WIN Stadium and the training field.

The ‘Australasian Leisure Management’ stated that with both venues in need of updating, the report calls for immediate funding from the NSW Government for a masterplan for this key precinct, supported by comprehensive community engagement led by the NSW Government.

The 22,000-capacity Wollongong Entertainment Centre (WEC) is a multipurpose indoor arena, located in Wollongong, New South Wales, Australia. The WEC opened on September 5th, 1998.

The 23,000-capacity Wollongong Showground, known as WIN Stadium for sponsorship reasons, is a multipurpose stadium located in Wollongong, Australia. The stadium officially opened in 1911.

Venues NSW is a NSW Government agency incorporated under the Sporting Venues Authorities Act to manage a portfolio of sports and entertainment venues, including: The 80,000-capacity Stadium Australia, the 48,000-capacity Sydney Cricket Ground and the 45,500-capacity Sydney Football Stadium.

The ‘Australasian Leisure Management’ further stated that suggestions in the Illawarra Sports and Entertainment Precinct Final Report: January 2022 include a redevelopment of the WIN Entertainment Centre with a new Northern grandstand in WIN Stadium integrated with the new entertainment venue, upgrading of the WIN Stadium’s ‘Hill’ to support activation with the ocean and a new Southern grandstand with contemporary gameday facilities.

While the significance of the precinct is noted in the NSW Government’s Illawarra Shoalhaven Regional Plan 2041 and Illawarra Shoalhaven Regional Transport Plan – and also aligned with numerous Council plans and strategies – both the venues have been starved of funds in recent years.

A report in May 2020 suggested the Illawarra region was missing out on hosting major indoor events due to a lack of investment into the WIN Entertainment Centre.

The report indicated that the venue, opened in 1998, was “not fit-for-purpose”.

Prior to that, in February 2020, a National Basketball League (NBL) game at the venue was abandoned due to a leaking roof.

In 2020, the Council was asked by the then NSW Acting Minister for Sport, Dr Geoff Lee, to lead a process to inform the future of the precinct. During 2021, the Council led the process to consider future development opportunities for the precinct in collaboration with the Illawarra Sports and Entertainment Precinct Steering Committee.

The Council explained that its “Vision for the broader precinct is a place for gathering, where people come together to watch and play sport, to be entertained, to relax and exercise, and to worship”.

In addition to the Council’s plans and possible funding for the precinct through Venues NSW, a group of property developments are suggesting that the prime beachfront real estate be redeveloped for residential use and a new stadium and arena be built elsewhere in the City (Wollongong).

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