WIN Entertainment Centre Turns 20
Monday 3 September 2018 11:31am
Twenty years ago today, the WIN Entertainment Centre in Wollongong opened, giving the Illawarra region a 6,000-seat venue for international and local performers.
Some of the biggest stars in the world have performed there, often when they were just starting out, like Pink and Ed Sheeran who now sells out the 83,500 seat ANZ Stadium three nights in a row.
“Ed is an anomaly in the business because he’s so simple on stage. Pink arrived with 54 tonnes of equipment to winch herself up to the roof so she could sing upside down. She blew us away. But so did Ed. And he arrived with a guitar. And a hoodie,” says Venues NSW Chief Executive Officer Paul Doorn.
Over 1,500 people attended the opening on 3 September 1998, an event marked by sell-out concerts by Bob Dylan and British singer and actor Michael Crawford. The first month of events saw 40,000 people through the doors and over a million dollars in ticket sales.
“With around one event every five days, the WIN Entertainment Centre contributes more than $20 million in economic benefit to the region every year. 3,366,874 people have been through the arena’s doors over the last twenty years, and with visitors spending money in local cafes, restaurants hotels and shops - anytime we attract tourists we attract benefits to the community,” says Mr Doorn.
Venue Manager Marc Swan says that every artist that comes to Wollongong makes an impact into the community.
“People stop me in the streets to tell me stories about a performance they’d seen and loved. They’ll also tell me if the pies were cold, but running the venue is the best job in the world,” smiles Mr Swan.
WIN Entertainment Centre sells more than 120,000 tickets to shows each year for some of the biggest acts in the world from Lady Gaga to Cirque du Soleil. But local annual events such as Southern Stars, the KidzWish Christmas Party and the Illawarra Business Chamber Awards also generate sell-out crowds.
“Southern Stars is one of our largest and most successful events. With 3,000 performers on stage we need extra space, so we turn the loading dock into a mini-campsite with changing “tents” instead of changing rooms,” says Mr Swan.
Dubbed the prettiest entertainment venue setting in the country due to its beach-front location, it’s a popular spot for surfers and performers.
“Singer Jack Johnson actually started his 2008 world tour in Wollongong because he wanted to go surfing with his mates, and “Wicked Game” singer Chris Isaak would bring his surf board to sound check so he could hit the beach as early as possible,” says Mr Swan.
After twenty years of servicing the region it’s time to time to look to the future.
“The venue was built as a basketball court so it’s not always suited for the types of events and performances available in the market. To put in in perspective, when a basketball team plays, they bring a change of clothes, an extra pair of shoes and a ball or two. When Cirque du Soleil come – they bring nearly 3,000 handmade costumes and shoes and they’re squashed into sports locker-rooms, hallways and anywhere we can fit them. If we want to compete with other facilities going forward we need to put some thought into our future needs,” says Mr Swan.
“It’s a stunning location for an entertainment centre so examining the venue and the surrounding entertainment precinct’s best use makes sense, as well as making it more suitable for the types of events we host now. However, before any decisions are made, we must involve local authorities and organisations, consult with the community, develop a concept plan and produce a business case,” says Mr Doorn.
“In the meantime,” says Mr Swan, “I’d like to thank everybody who has been to an event here. And as a way of acknowledging our amazing audiences, we have twenty special events planned for 20 weeks of birthday festivities and an incredible social media Emerald Ticket competition that gives the winner two free seats to every concert throughout 2019.”