Iconic Melbourne venue Festival Hall has been sold to Hillsong Church

The megachurch announced the acquisition in a video earlier today

Hillsong Church, known for its worship music, has purchased iconic Melbourne concert and sporting venue Festival Hall.

In a video posted on the Christian megachurch’s YouTube channel earlier today (October 25), founder Brian Houston said the church purchased the venue under a new entity, Community Venues Pty Ltd.

He said that there will be a “complete renovation” of the building, and that Hillsong services would take place every Sunday at the venue once opened.

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Later in the video, state pastors Tim and Nicola Douglass said that the long-running venue will continue to host live entertainment events, but that it would be “the house of God” on Sundays.

“It has served the people of this city in different events over the years, and it’s going to continue to do that. We just get to be the church who purchases it,” Tim Douglass commented.

Houston discusses the acquisition around the 27-minute mark of the video below, while the segment featuring the Douglass’ begins at 48:30.

“This journey of purchasing this incredible facility started about 18 months ago. Just happened to hear about that it was for sale and started enquiring, thinking that it was a long shot,” Douglass explained.

“Now, we’re sitting in a miracle. God can make a way even through impossible circumstances.”

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The venue’s Wikipedia page has already been edited to reflect the change, with Community Venues listed as its owners.

Tanya Gleeson, an event coordinator at Festival Hall, has since reacted to the story breaking regarding the venue’s sale.

“This week is my last week at Festival Hall with no future employment,” Gleeson tweeted this afternoon.

“I have known about the sale for quite sometime and I must admit today it feels real and sad. Thanks for the memories.”

Located at 300 Dudley Street in West Melbourne, Festival Hall was originally opened in 1913 by boxing promoter R.L. Baker before being sold to Stadiums Australia chairman John Wren two years later, who completed its construction.

It served as a function venue for boxing and pro wrestling for many years, playing host to bouts as well as ballroom dancing, cultural and religious gatherings, and the first Indoor Tennis Exhibition featuring John McEnroe.

The stadium was destroyed by fire in 1955, but was rebuilt in time to host boxing, gymnastics and other events as part of the 1956 Olympic Games.

With a capacity of over 5,000, the venue has hosted countless live concerts from legendary Australian acts including INXS, AC/DC, Midnight Oil and Powderfinger.

Throughout the years, international touring artists such as The Beatles, Bob Dylan, Neil Young, The Strokes, Rage Against the Machine and Smashing Pumpkins have also graced its stage.

This year, prior to the coronavirus pandemic and subsequent restrictions on mass gatherings, the venue hosted shows by Mac DeMarco and Dune Rats, among others.

The versatile venue has also been used for many other purposes including conferences, black-tie dinners and art exhibitions.

In 2018, plans by Stadiums Australia to sell the site in order for the building to be demolished and replaced with 16-storey apartment blocks were thwarted when it received Victorian heritage listing.

At the time, director Chris Wren said Festival Hall was no longer profitable to run.

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