More space for arts, sports communities

The Government is intent on opening up existing facilities and space for athletes and arts groups to train, rehearse or perform.
The Government is intent on opening up existing facilities and space for athletes and arts groups to train, rehearse or perform.PHOTO: ST FILE

The space crunch that dogs the arts and sports communities is being tackled, with the Government intent on opening up existing facilities and space for them to train, rehearse or perform.

For instance, the public underpass leading to the Esplanade could be a space that arts groups can use, as is done at France's Centquatre public cultural centre, suggested Minister for Culture, Community and Youth Grace Fu.

The cultural centre in Paris is an open area where arts groups can rehearse without a booking, as long as they do not disturb each other.

Similarly, Ms Fu wants more schools to let sports enthusiasts use their facilities outside school hours, and is working with the Education Ministry to achieve this.

"Some schools have come on board. We think more can actually come on board and because there are a few schools in every constituency, facilities can be easily accessed," she said last Wednesday in an interview on her first six months helming the ministry, which also oversees sport.

Some such bookings of school facilities are already being made under the national ActiveSG programme, which encourages more Singaporeans to take up sports.

The space problem is not easy to solve, Ms Fu noted, but the upside is hard to ignore. It will encourage more people to take part in sports, which, in turn, will help them to lead healthy lives, she said.

What of the new billion-dollar Sports Hub, a major investment by the Government that has come under fire for its high rents?

Ms Fu sees a smoother road ahead for the facility, whose centrepiece is the 55,000-seat National Stadium. The reason for her optimism: The operators, having run the place since 2014, should now have a better grasp of how to keep costs down.

Ms Fu said: "They have some good reasons as to why they need to go through a learning period. But with the passage of time, we expect them to do better."

The negotiations on how many days the stadium will be booked for National Day Parade rehearsals were completed only recently.

Ms Fu also said that the Sports Hub, like other sports and arts facilities, has a role to play in developing Singapore's national identity and providing opportunities for volunteerism.

"It has multiple social objectives, and it must pull its weight meeting these objectives," she said.

Charissa Yong

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 07, 2016, with the headline 'More space for arts, sports communities'. Print Edition | Subscribe