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NDP loss a setback for National Stadium's bid to become a S'pore icon

SINGAPORE – The loss of Singapore’s biggest annual extravaganza, the National Day Parade, as a signature event for the new National Stadium will not be a blow to the Sports Hub commercially, said experts and observers.

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SINGAPORE – The loss of Singapore’s biggest annual extravaganza, the National Day Parade, as a signature event for the new National Stadium will not be a blow to the Sports Hub commercially, said experts and observers.

However, as a result, industry insiders felt that the consortium behind the S$1.33 billion project will have its work cut out to replicate the bond that the old Kallang Stadium – venue for many memorable NDPs in the past – had with Singaporeans.

On Monday (Oct 30), Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong announced at a dinner to celebrate 50 years of National Service (NS) that the Marina Bay Floating Platform will be designated as a permanent space to commemorate NS, and used as the primary venue for the NDP. The platform, which was originally built in 2007 as a temporary stage for NDP when the old National Stadium was torn down to make way for the Sports Hub, will be renamed NS Square.

While missing out on NDP will mean a loss of rental revenue of S$5.91 million – 15 per cent of the total bill of S$39.4 million for the 2016 edition at the National Stadium – industry insiders said that the consortium should be able to make up for the shortfall in other areas.

“This frees up a lot of weekends for other activities, and it sounds like there’s more space for sports and entertainment,” said Singapore Rugby Union (SRU) president Terence Khoo, who is the managing director of sports marketing agency Enterprise Sports Group.

Wu Swee Sin, Managing Director, Asia Pacific, MP & Silva - an international sports agency - added: "Having the Sports Hub available during the summer will certainly bolster more opportunities to fill the sports calendar with world-class events.

"We currently have the International Champions Cup during the summer till 2020, and the Sports Hub could line-up more events during the school holidays and potentially drive sports tourism with stronger event programming during this 'prime time'."

Veteran sports administrator Low Teo Ping – who had worked with the Sports Hub for the HSBC Singapore Rugby Sevens in his previous capacity as SRU president – also said that this development will have no impact on the facility’s reputation as a world-class venue for elite sporting events.

Events like the International Champions Cup, which saw top European football clubs Chelsea, Inter Milan and Bayern Munich competing in its inaugural edition this year as part of a four-year deal, can also take the place of NDP, said Members of Parliament.

“By being able to use the National Stadium, we actually are able to showcase our Sports Hub to the rest of the world, with the English Premier League (EPL) being a global brand,” said Ang Mo Kio GRC MP Darryl David.

“It (ICC) brought in tourism dollars, as people flew in from the region, and it was also very well attended domestically.”

However, experts acknowledged that with the lack of big national events such as NDP, it will be an uphill task developing the National Stadium into an icon such as the old stadium, which had a place in people’s hearts. There were many major, even emotive, events held there throughout Singapore’s formative years, such as Singapore's Silver Jubilee celebrations, the Malaysia Cup, numerous NDPs, as well as Singapore Youth Festivals and Singapore Armed Forces Day parades.

Dr Jimmy Wong, Senior Lecturer, marketing programme at the Singapore University of Social Sciences, said: “With one less major national event, it’s definitely going to take away some glamour from the National Stadium. They would have to find some ways to make up for it, with other sporting events such as the SEA Games.”

Some MPs also urged the authorities to re-think how they can develop the National Stadium and Sports Hub into an icon in its own right.

Others like Chua Chu Kang GRC MP Zaqy Mohamed – who noted that the Sports Hub has become very commercial with a lot of concerts held there – also raised the question of the Sports Hub’s identity, on whether it is a venue for commercial, world-class, or community events.

While the Sports Hub has introduced a number of community events such as the Sports Hub Community Play Day to engage and involve Singaporeans of all ages, R Sasikumar, who runs sports marketing agency Red Card Sports Group, believes the consortium can do more.

Pointing to the cost of rental for the National Stadium, the former national footballer said that the Sports Hub should differentiate how it charged different groups and not "put everyone into the same bucket".

“There are some low-entry events to bring in to fill the stadium, while others like EPL (clubs) should have different tiers of rental. No community run will pay S$250,000, but if it’s S$50,000 they might," he said.

“If you put everyone in the same bucket you run the risk of being a white elephant. The moment the market thinks it is unaffordable, that’s when you run the risk of serious trouble.”

Responding to queries from TODAY, Oon Jin Teik, Acting Chief Executive Officer, Singapore Sports Hub said that the consortium was “looking at an exciting content calendar for the same period from June to August”.

“The Singapore Sports Hub was built to host major sports, entertainment and lifestyle events, and other mass participation community events for Singaporeans and visitors to the city," he said, adding that even though this year’s NDP was not held at the Singapore Sports Hub, it had organised the National Day Fiesta with a NDP live telecast at the venue "to stay connected with the community."

“During the NDP period, we also hosted other events such as the Italy vs Scotland Rugby Test match, Singapore vs Argentina football friendly and Monster Jam at the National Stadium," he added.

“As we continue to create memories for Singaporeans, the Singapore Sports Hub will be honoured to host the National Day Parade again if we are presented with the opportunity in the future.”

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