Iconic music critic, journalist, television presenter and record producer Ian ‘Molly’ Meldrum has urged the State Government to reconsider its plan to demolish the Sydney Entertainment Centre (SEC).
In April, NSW Premier Barry O’Farrell announced the iconic Haymarket venue would be bulldozed to make way for expanded convention and exhibition facilities at Darling Harbour.
Mr Meldrum said demolishing the concert venue – which has a capacity of 13,250 people – would constitute a great loss to Sydney.
“It’s very sad for me personally, for Sydney and for the entire Australian music industry,” he said.
“You’ve got a fantastic venue for popular music slap bang in the heart of Sydney, and they want to tear it down. It doesn’t make sense – it’s a great asset to Sydney. I really hope they reconsider.”
Mr Meldrum said the list of iconic performers hosted by the SEC was “phenomenal”, adding that the arena was lauded internationally as one of the world’s great live music venues.
“Everyone’s played there, and I mean everyone,” he said. “Michael Jackson, Prince, Elton John, U2, David Bowie, Kylie and so on have all played there many, many times.
“Everywhere I go, performers know and love the Sydney Entertainment Centre.”
Mr Meldrum said his personal friend Sir Elton John had a special relationship with the venue.
“Elton told me … he was looking forward to celebrating the 40th anniversary of Rocket Man there,” he said.
“He’s played there more than anyone else … It’s been a huge part of his career.”
Sir Elton’s Sydney concert on November 14 will mark the singer’s 42nd show at the venue. In 2002, he declared the SEC “the best venue in the world to play”.
But it’s not just music icons lamenting the centre’s imminent destruction.
Local music fan Danny Waterson, who has attended more than 50 concerts at the SEC, said it should be preserved.
“It’s a unique live venue, an architectural landmark, an icon of the music industry, and most definitely a favourite of music fans. I believe it should be heritage listed,” said Mr Waterson.
Brad Chan, President of the Haymarket Chamber of Commerce, expressed concern for local businesses.
“The Entertainment Centre has a symbiotic relationship with Chinatown,” he said. “Chinatown relies on the patronage of the Entertainment Centre and the centre is able to attract the acts it does [due to] its proximity to Chinatown’s many restaurants and nightclubs.
“There’s nothing inherently wrong with the centre and we’d like to see it retained.”
However, a spokesperson for Infrastructure NSW said the demolition was part of a wider plan to improve Darling Harbour, and that a smaller but better venue would replace the SEC.
“The existing entertainment facilities have served Sydney well over the past 30 years but the time is right to create a precinct that befits a modern city,” said the spokesperson.
“The NSW Government is delivering a brand new … premium entertainment facility in the centre of Sydney to replace the ageing entertainment centre.”
The spokesperson said the new venue would host up to 10,000 people, while larger concerts could be accommodated at Allphones Arena, fifteen kilometres west of the city.