Wollongong set to lose events and tourism jobs unless Wollongong Entertainment Centre is upgraded

16 December 2021

Wollongong now risks losing multimillion dollar concerts and events to Penrith unless both Wollongong City Council and the NSW Government get serious about upgrading the Wollongong Entertainment Centre (WEC).

Member for Wollongong Paul Scully said that the announced full redevelopment of the Penrith Stadium last week could threaten the further loss of business for the WEC and place local tourism and hospitality jobs in jeopardy.


He said the Minister for Tourism Stuart Ayres had signalled the intention of a redeveloped Penrith Stadium last week:


This will be one of the great music venues.  We see a lot of acts that come to Sydney that bypass western Sydney, they go to Brisbane, Melbourne, even to places like…Wollongong…there is no reason they can’t do that here[1].


In the meantime, the Minister for Sport, who has responsibility for the WEC and WIN Stadium precinct told Mr Scully in an answer to a question on notice, that a precinct plan for the area “…is yet to be completed” by Wollongong City Council.


“It is now nearly 700 days since the NSW Government stated that the WEC upgrade was a “priority” after the roof leaked on 4 February 2020 stopping a nationally televised basketball game.


“It is nearly a year since the Lord Mayor, Councillor Gordon Bradbery, indicated Council would take the lead on planning for the Illawarra Sports and Entertainment Precinct.


“Yet from both the Government and Council we still see no action whatsoever on delivering a plan for, or investment in, the Illawarra’s premium tourism, cultural, sport and events asset.


“Western Sydney is coming after our events, our concerts, our business, our money and our jobs while we sit around and do nothing.


“How many more times does the Government and Council have to be warned?


“This continued indolence is inexcusable”, Mr Scully said.


A treasure trove of briefing papers prepared by Venues NSW for the former Minister for Sport, released under Freedom of Information laws after a request by Mr Scully in May 2020, warned the Government that the 23 year old facility was not fit-for-purpose for accessibility and amenity, and regularly turns away events with over 1000 participants from across Australia.


Mr Scully has called on whoever is declared the winner of the council elections on 4 December 2021 to get the planning for the Illawarra Sports and Entertainment Precinct done as a matter of urgency.


“It’s time the whip was cracked, the planning completed, so we can start the investment in the upgrade of the WEC.


“I’m sick and tired of the excuses, the buck-passing, and the finger-pointing between the Government and the Council when it comes to the WEC


“Wollongong has too much at stake and we risk losing events, concerts and jobs to the planned new fully redeveloped stadiums in western Sydney unless the upgrade of the WEC is taken seriously”, he said.


[1] ‘Penrith’s hit parade, bringing big music acts west with stadium, Daily Telegraph, 10 December 2021, page 9.