Venue for National Day Parade 2016 still not decided

Spectators at the Padang enjoying the spectacular pyrotechnic display during the finale at the National Day Parade on Aug 9, 2015.
Spectators at the Padang enjoying the spectacular pyrotechnic display during the finale at the National Day Parade on Aug 9, 2015.ST FILE PHOTO

SINGAPORE - Just three months before the first rehearsals for next year's National Day Parade (NDP) are due to start, it is still not clear if Singapore's 51st birthday bash will be staged at the National Stadium in the Sports Hub.

The uncertainty is due to ongoing talks between NDP organisers and the Singapore Sports Hub to secure the venue.

The Straits Times has learnt that both sides are negotiating the cost of renting the 55,000-seater stadium, after NDP organisers were told to pay $26 million for leasing the venue for an extra 35 days for rehearsals.

The Straits Times understands that current contractual agreement allows parade organisers to use the National Stadium for free for 45 days. But previous NDP organisers would usually move into the venue in May or June to start setting up the stage and prepare for full-dress rehearsals.

The $26 million quoted includes the cost of closing the venue's car park and the water sports centre, among other things. This far surpasses the budget of the NDP, which typically hovers between $17 million and $20 million.

That amount, however, is said to have been negotiated down to about $10 million.

When contacted by The Straits Times, the Ministry of Defence confirmed that negotiations with the Sports Hub to secure for next year's show are "still ongoing".

A ministry spokesman said: "The NDP 16 Executive Committee will update on the confirmed venue after negotiations have completed."

The Sports Hub has declined to comment.

Typically, the concept and budget for the annual Aug 9 parade would be finalised and approved by this month by the National Day Celebrations Committee, which is led by the Chief of Defence Force.

The latest development comes at a time when the Sports Hub has been taking a few hits for its expensive rental costs.

The Asia Masters Athletics Championships was supposed to be held at the National Stadium in May next year but the event might have to move to another venue due to cost issues. The biennial event's organiser Singapore Athletics said it had to pay about $600,000 to convert the stadium's football seating arrangement to one for athletics meets.

If the NDP organisers and the Sports Hub agree on the cost, next year's bash would be the parade's homecoming to Kallang, 10 years after the last NDP was held in 2006 before the old National Stadium was torn down.

But the venue is not without its limitations, as organisers are said to be looking at how to give the 2016 edition a fresh look and feel.

With the venue's retractable domed roof, the Red Lions are unlikely to be able to jump right in front of spectators in the stadium. Parade-goers will probably be unable to catch the traditional flypast from inside the stadium too. Also, the convoy of war machines might not be able to rumble past spectators either.