As the Sydney Swans embark on their journey to call the Royal Hall of Industries home, we take a look back at where it all began for this iconic building.
On February 28, 1913, President of the Royal Agricultural Society Sir Francis Suttor raised his glass of champagne and toasted Mr J B Saunders, the architect of the showgrounds newest and largest building. They were standing at the Royal Hall of Industries, built in just nine months at a cost of £23,000 and claimed to be the largest hall in the southern hemisphere.
The Royal Hall of Industries was completed in time for the 1913 Royal Easter Show, which opened on 31 March. Outside of the Royal Easter Show, it appears that the Royal Hall of Industries was used as a roller-skating rink from late 1913.
During the First World War, the Royal Agricultural Society (RAS) leased part of the showground to the Defence Forces as a camping ground.
Spanish influenza broke out in Sydney in January 1919. At the end of February 1919, the RAS Council proposed to change the dates of the Royal Easter Show because the Government had placed a ban on public gatherings due to public health concerns about the influenza pandemic spreading. By the following month, the pandemic worsened and the Jubilee Royal Easter Show for 1919 was cancelled.
In March 1919, the NSW heath authorities sprung into action and a portion of the RAS Showground at Moore Park was taken over to deal with the crisis. The NSW Board of Health notified the RAS at this time that it intended to take over the Royal Hall of Industries ‘forthwith as a hospital.’ The Royal Hall of Industries was still being used as an emergency hospital in May 1919.
On 25 June 1919, the RAS put in a claim for compensation to the State Government for the cancellation of the Royal Easter Show due to the influenza outbreak. There was however, a second outbreak of the flu in this month, with patient numbers reaching 400. A high death rate was reported due to the coldness of the building.
In 1938, the Royal Hall of Industries was modified for use year-round as an ice-skating rink until the early years of World War 2.
In the early 1940s, as the war in the Pacific moved closer to Australia, the RAS Showground at Moore Park became involved in the war effort. The Royal Hall of Industries was occupied by the Australian Army between 1942 and 1948 and used to house the District Accounts Office, which employed up to 1200 people. The Royal Easter Show was cancelled from 1942 to 1946 to aid the war effort; the first post war show held was held in 1947.
In the period from the 1950s to the 1990s, the Royal Hall of Industries continued to be leased in the offseason as an exhibition hall and entertainment venue.
From 1981 onwards, the Royal Hall of Industries was used for conventions and exhibitions, including craft shows, motor shows and antique fairs. During the two weeks of the Royal Easter Show each year, the Royal Hall of Industries continued to be used as the showbag pavilion.
Regular events include the Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras have been held at both the Royal Hall of Industries and the Hordern Pavilion since the early 1980s until present.
The Royal Hall of Industries will be transformed into Sydney Swans HQ, a world-class sporting and community hub, following successful negotiations to re-enliven the project. The dream, first announced in October 2018, will finally become a reality.
A re-enlivened Sydney Swans HQ was a key pillar of the Swans’ successful bid for an AFLW licence, with the project set to deliver men’s and women’s elite training facilities.
When complete in late 2022, the Sydney Swans HQ will be home to the Sydney Swans elite men’s and women’s teams, as well as more than 700 young athletes, boys and girls, engaged in the QBE Sydney Swans Academy.
An international standard netball court and training facility will be constructed, catering to community and elite players, while also providing valuable infrastructure for the 2027 Netball World Cup, to be hosted in NSW.
Community sits at the core of the project. In addition to providing a new meeting place for the Swans community of more than 50,000 members and our more than one million fans, the Sydney Swans HQ will also be home to Indigenous focused not-for-profits’ the GO Foundation and Clontarf Foundation. It is intended that an Australian Red Cross Lifeblood donor centre is housed within the facility, which could become an important blood collection hub in Sydney’s east.