Stakeholders, sports fraternity hope SportSG's takeover of Sports Hub will add buzz to scene

People using the indoor climbing wall at Kallang Wave Mall on June 10, 2022. ST PHOTO: LIM YAOHUI

SINGAPORE - Tenants at the 41,000 sq m Kallang Wave Mall are hopeful that a change in ownership and management of the Sports Hub will lead to a boom in business.

While the venue is busy on event days and weekends, things are fairly quiet outside of that window.

In announcing it will take over the Sports Hub on Dec 9, national agency Sport Singapore (SportSG) said one of its key targets is to increase the number of events held there.

"Having more events will definitely be very good for us. More tournaments and football games will help business," said Mr Marzuki Pagira, 30, assistant manager of football merchandise shop Weston Corporation, on Friday (June 10).

Mr Ar Rafallo, 31, a supervisor at dessert place Chocolate Origin, said the number of customers tends to double whenever there are events. He hopes this will be a regular occurrence, especially after business was badly affected by Covid-19.

"During the pandemic, it was quiet. When events came back, it helped bring back the crowd. It would really help attract more customers for us if there were more such events," he said.

On Friday, SportSG and SportsHub Pte Ltd said they had agreed to terminate the public-private partnership that was supposed to run from 2010 to 2035.

Former Sports Hub chief executive Oon Jin Teik, who stepped down from the post in 2019, was not surprised by the news, noting that "in Parliament over the years, there have been a lot of questions asked (of Sports Hub's performance)".

Football Association of Singapore (FAS) general secretary Yazeen Buhari, 44, backed SportSG's goal of making sports more accessible, which he believes will help enhance the Republic's sporting culture.

While large parts of the facility are easily accessible to the man in the street, the National Stadium's pitch and athletics track are not. And while it has been billed as the home of the Lions, they do not always play there. For instance, in 2019, they hosted Palestine in a World Cup qualifier at Jalan Besar Stadium. The year before, a friendly against Mongolia was staged at Bishan Stadium.

"At its core, access to sports is intrinsic towards a society that aims to lead a healthy lifestyle," Mr Yazeen said. "The move to have the Sports Hub be more accessible to all is very much welcome, as it will hopefully not just reinforce the current sporting culture we have, but also grow it further."

He added that the FAS is working with SportSG to "ensure we provide consistent programming involving our Lions and Lionesses, so that fans can also have the best matchday experience in the most accessible way possible".

National tennis player Shaheed Alam, 23, hopes the move will allow the Republic to host more international sports events such as last year's Singapore Tennis Open, the first ATP 250 tournament to take place here.

More such competitions will bode well for the local sporting scene, he added.

He noted how a new Singapore Tennis Centre is coming up as part of the Kallang Alive project, and said he was eager to see what else can be done for the sport. He cited the time when Singapore hosted the regional qualifiers for the Davis Cup as a shining example of what can be done.

A veteran of six Davis Cup campaigns, he said: "The Davis Cup has a beautiful set-up; fans come in and support the team. It definitely helps to create buzz and this will be beneficial to the sporting fraternity, generate interest, and kids will feel inspired to train and represent Singapore."

Ms Koh Ching Ching, OCBC Bank's head of group brand and communications, said the bank, which is the Sports Hub's premier founding partner, is optimistic about the development.

The bank has a 15-year naming rights deal worth over $50 million with the Hub that sees its branding on the OCBC Aquatic Centre, OCBC Arena and OCBC Square.

Ms Koh noted that, over the years, the bank has been able to engage its customers here and overseas, as well as the community, through international and local events held at the Hub.

She is confident that under new leadership, it will continue to be a world-class sports, entertainment and lifestyle destination in the region.

Sharing a similar sentiment was Ms Jennifer See, managing director of F&N Foods Singapore, which has products like the 100Plus isotonic drink, one of the Sports Hub's sponsors.

She noted that the company's vision to encourage sports and an active lifestyle on international, local and community levels is very much aligned with SportSG's national agenda to make the Hub accessible to the broader community.

  • Additional reporting by Jeremiah Ong

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