Singapore government to take over Sports Hub, ending partnership with consortium

The Singapore Sports Hub seen with the Kallang River in the foreground.
The Singapore Sports Hub seen with the Kallang River in the foreground. (Yahoo News Singapore file photo)

SINGAPORE — Singapore's government will take over the ownership of the Singapore Sports Hub from 9 December, as it announced an amicable termination of its partnership with the private consortium that has been running the facility since it opened in 2014.

National sports agency Sport Singapore (SportSG) and the consortium, SportsHub Pte Ltd (SHPL), agreed on the termination on Friday (10 June). This ends the Public-Private Partnership (PPP) arrangement that grew the Sports Hub into a venue that has hosted over 1,100 events since its inauguration, but had its share of teething problems such as poor field conditions and numerous managerial upheavals.

Under the PPP arrangement, which was to have run from 2010 to 2035, SHPL designed, built, financed and operated the Sports Hub, and bore the cost of the project. SportSG had to pay an annual fee of about $193.7 million from 2014 to 2035 to finance and operate the Hub. It has since paid about $1.5 billion.

If SportSG continued with the PPP arrangement, the estimated cost would be $2.32 billion. This is a sum assessed in accordance with the Project Agreement that comprised:

  • The amount of the outstanding loan that was taken in respect of the construction of the Sports Hub. This is an expenditure that would have been incurred by SportSG had it financed the Sports Hub from the start, without the PPP;

  • A fair open market value of the Sports Hub.

The cost of terminating the PPP arrangement and taking over the operations of the Sports Hub is estimated to be comparable to the cost of continuing with the PPP arrangement until 2035. There is no penalty for the termination, which can be done at any time SportSG chooses.

More community-oriented Sports Hub

SportSG said that, with the PPP termination and its taking over of the Sports Hub's operations, it has greater flexibility in making the venue more accessible to the Singapore community for sports, lifestyle, entertainment and social activities.

With the Kallang Alive project announced by the government in 2019 to develop the Hub's surrounding area into a vibrant and integrated sports, wellness and lifestyle precinct, SportSG chairman Kon Yin Tong believes that taking back ownership and management of the Sports Hub will enable the agency to ride on synergies to develop the precinct.

SportSG chief executive officer Lim Teck Yin believes that the aspirations and needs of the community have changed considerably since the Sports Hub began operating in 2014.

"There has been a considerable uptick in participation in group physical activities, and these should continue to feature here in good scale, with the right kind of innovation that we want to see," he said in response to a question from Yahoo News Singapore during a media conference at the SportSG office on Friday.

"As aspirations go, we have grown up with an experience of our own national stadium, and it is something we hear among our sports partners, that Singaporeans want the national stadium experience to be part of their life journey. School kids want to play football, rugby or netball at the Sports Hub, and these are aspirations we want to meet."

To that end, SportSG intends to make the Sports Hub a community icon for all to enjoy – from children and youth taking part in the National School Games community competitions and grassroots events; to junior and elite athletes training and competing; to everyday Singaporeans exercising and enjoying the facilities in and around the Sports Hub.

Artist impression of the Kallang Alive precinct that includes the Sports Hub. (ILLUSTRATION: Sport Singapore)
Artist impression of the Kallang Alive precinct that includes the Sports Hub. (ILLUSTRATION: Sport Singapore)

Closer integration with facilities in Kallang Alive project

In addition, with increasing regional competition from other world-class venues on the horizon, SportSG believes that taking ownership of the Sports Hub will enable closer integration of its facilities with upcoming Kallang Alive facilities such as the Kallang Football Hub, Kallang Tennis Centre, and Youth Hub.

This will enable Singapore to deliver a more cohesive sporting and lifestyle experience, as well as more seamless event and programming offerings, as it prepares to host the 2029 SEA Games and awaits the results of its bid to host the 2025 World Athletics Championships.

Kon thanked SHPL for its contribution of expertise in the design and construction of the Hub, and for its role in the Sports Hub project since 2014.

"We are privileged to have been given the opportunity to be stewards of this national asset," said SHPL CEO Lionel Yeo at the media conference.

"We have had many highlights in the sports calendar - such as hosting the 2015 SEA Games, the WTA Finals and HSBC World Rugby Sevens. We've also hosted marquee entertainment acts such as U2, BTS, Coldplay, Jay Chou and JJ Lin.

"During the COVID-19 pandemic, we've even hosted about 3,000 migrant workers as part of the national effort to break the chain of transmission in the migrant-worker community. We are certainly proud of our legacy."

SportSG intends to retain SHPL employees

Both SportSG and SHPL will ensure that the handover will be smooth and not affect day-to-day operations and programming of the Sports Hub.

SportSG will continue to work with partners from the private sector to deliver high-quality service for the Sports Hub. It will also engage SHPL employees individually to discuss employment opportunities, and intends to retain their expertise and experience in transiting to the new corporate entity.

The 35-hectare Sports Hub had cost $1.3 billion to be constructed, and comprises the 55,000-capacity National Stadium, the OCBC Aquatic Centre, the OCBC Arena and the Kallang Wave Mall. The Singapore Indoor Stadium, which was built in 1990, was also absorbed as part of the Sports Hub.

Minister for Culture, Community and Youth Edwin Tong said in a Facebook post on Friday that the government taking over the Sports Hub ownership marks "a new chapter" for the venue.

"I am excited at the potential we now have, to build on what we have, already a world class stadium, and turn Kallang into a larger, more diverse, vibrant sporting and lifestyle hub," he wrote.

"But much more important to me is for our National Stadium to be open and accessible to all Singaporeans. From world class events, to sport enthusiasts engaging in an active lifestyle, to everyday Singaporeans participating in community fringe events, we must turn the Sports Hub into a sporting home for all to enjoy."

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