Ninth December 2022 marked a new chapter in the history of the Sports Hub with a flurry of activities and celebration as the new entity, Kallang Alive Sport Management (KASM), took over the fabled grounds and the responsibility of unlocking its full potential.
“We are very happy today, that we can celebrate a new chapter of the Singapore Sports Hub with our community and partners. This sporting and lifestyle facility is for all of us in Singapore, we will have activities and programs at this iconic Hub, which can bring the community together. I have every confidence in the new team that has been formed, to build on the existing foundations and strengthen Singapore’s position as a destination of choice for major international events, and more importantly, create a more vibrant community space that Singaporeans can identify with and feel for,” said Minister For Culture, Community And Youth and Second Minister For Law Culture Edwin Tong.
This takeover came six months in the making after SportSG said on 10 June that it had reached a mutual agreement with then operator SportsHub Pte Ltd (SHPL) to terminate their public-private partnership (PPP) which was contracted to run the Sports Hub till 2035.
Envisioned as a multi facility sporting destination to transform Singapore into a world-class sporting hub that was a worthy successor to the ageing National Stadium, the 35 hectare ground was opened on 26 July 2015 and has seen its fair share of highs and lows during its tenure with SHPL.
Local sports writer and author A. Thiyaga Raju wrote in a forum expressing his excitement in the takeover, after he was disheartened to see the National Stadium empty each time he passed by, especially on weekdays.
“It was unlike the days of the old National Stadium. Many activities were held at the venue, such as school sports events, concerts and football matches, drawing thousands of Singaporeans to the iconic stadium,” he said.
Minister Tong said in a statement in August last year that the termination was to “unlock the Sports Hub’s full potential”.
“The current arrangement has helped us achieve a world-class sporting infrastructure. But nonetheless it still falls short of promoting sufficient community vibrancy in and around the Sports Hub,” he said.
In doing so, SportSG announced that the termination would incur a S$2.3 billion cost which consisted of outstanding debt for initial construction, open market value, and future operating costs of Sports Hub.
The road ahead for the Singapore Sports Hub
New KASM chief executive officer (CEO) Quek Swee Kuan, said that the new entity aims to stage a balance of community and commercial events.
“We believe that, through proper planning, we have time and space to accommodate both types of events. Both are equally important because they will help us achieve our vision of the Sports Hub being a premier destination for entertainment, sporting events and lifestyle,” said the former Sentosa Development Corporation (SDC) chief executive.
Since 9 Dec, a host of activities lasting until January 2023 were aimed at just that much to the delight of the public.
Community events that featured Singapore dance, jump rope, live music performances, and festivities that tied in with the FIFA world cup 2022 screening and Christmas celebrations were held.
Commercial events such as the National Badminton Open Championship, World Table Tennis Grand Smash, and ASEAN Basketball League Invitational Singapore, have been slated for the 2023 events calendar.
The are plans to reintroduce the National School Games to the Sports Hub for longer-term community engagement. Additionally, ActiveSG academies and clubs will offer a range of sports activities to engage youth.
Part of the takeover also features an integration of Sports Hub into a wider Kallang Alive precinct. Sport SG incorporates KASM to oversee the entire Kallang Alive precinct as well as part of the Sports Hub wider community integration into the Kallang network of facilities.
The 89 hectare site will feature venues such as a new Kallang Football Hub and Kallang Tennis Centre which will house the respective sport’s national training centres and ActiveSG Academies.
Aligning community interest and national interest
Founder of Millennial Events, an organiser of action sports events across Asia, Hass Aminian said that he is confident in the new direction of the Sports Hub because of “Singapore’s clear and resourced businesses and government departments”.
“The endeavour is supported with capable senior management and the team behind Kallang Alive will make it work,” he said.
The former director of business development at Sportfive Group in Singapore has an extensive background in the sports business and has been actively promoting skateboarding in Singapore and consulting local sport businesses.
However, Mr Aminian said that Singapore still lacks “government-linked companies commercially supporting sports as a platform for entertainment, development, and elite programs”.
“When the government requests that companies should step up, it should start by enabling government-linked companies to be proactively involved in these projects, and it should give them incentives in a clear and transparent way for brands to understand how to commercialise sport better,” he said.
He added that for the partnership and for the Sports Hub to work well, they need to work on “all stakeholders” from the fans by creating demand, participants who take charge in sports, world-class facilities to be able to deliver for them, and to promoters and national sports associations to be able to create commercially viable partnerships.
Rallying around the Sports Hub once more
Despite the dissonance between the Sports Hub and the engagement of the community, the increased appetite, community involvement, and government support for sports has shown optimistic signs to rally around.
The National Sport Participation Survey is Singapore’s only annual national survey on exercise and sport participation among citizens and permanent residents aged 13 and above.
The 2021 survey found that Singaporeans are more active than ever with 72 per cent of respondents participating in sporting activities at least once a week, showing steady growth from 54 per cent in 2015.
Additionally, of this group of regular participants, 71 per cent had a sense of pride as a Singaporean by supporting Team Singapore athletes while 74 per cent said Singapore’s achievements in sport have made them proud to be a Singaporean.
This comes as part of a concerted and long-term commitment to engage Singaporeans in sports as outlined by Singapore’s sports master plan, Vision 2030.
Credited as a driving force behind Vision 2030, SportSG CEO Lim Teck Yin wrote in a 2020 essay that in SportSG’s engagements with Singaporeans, “most expressed hope for a nation that values community bonds and provides equal opportunities for all”.
With the takeover of the Sports Hub completed, the phrase ‘build it and they will come’ goes back to the drawing board on exactly what and how it is being built as the new plans and activities that promote community engagement are laid.
Fans and businesses seem to be excited about the next chapter of the Sports Hub, and the pieces seem to be falling into place for a rally, albeit for a short time.
The Marina Bay floating platform which was built in 2007 as a temporary venue for the National Day Parade (NDP), held a NS55 parade as its last event before closing for renovation works to begin redeveloping it into a permanent venue named NS Square. Once complete in 2026, it is slated to serve as the ‘primary venue’ for future NDPs as said by PM Lee Hsien Loong in 2017.
During this window, it does open the door for the NDP to return to Sports Hub and the opportunity for Singaporeans to rekindle a sense of belonging to the stadium that stood before.