News Hillsong Church buys Melbourne’s iconic Festival Hall

Hillsong Church buys Melbourne’s iconic Festival Hall

Festival Hall has hosted a range of concerts and other events. Photo: ABC News
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Pentecostal megachurch Hillsong has bought iconic Melbourne concert venue Festival Hall, the church has announced.

The West Melbourne concert hall, which has hosted artists ranging from the Beatles to Ed Sheeran, was put up for sale almost three years ago.

At the time, owner Stadiums Limited said it couldn’t compete with newer venues.

In a YouTube video announcing the purchase on Sunday, Hillsong state pastors Tim and Nicola Douglass said the West Melbourne building had been bought after a years-long search for a home in the city.

“This journey of purchasing this incredible facility started about 18 months ago,” Mr Douglass said.

“We just happened to hear about that it was for sale and started inquiring, thinking that it was a long shot. I mean, we’ve been looking for seven or so years and come up empty-handed.”

Panic! at the Disco performed at Festival Hall in 2017. Photo: Flickr/Joseph Nguyen

Mr Douglass said the proposal appeared to fall through around Christmas last year, but “through a roller coaster of events”, the church managed to buy the building this year.

“The cool thing about purchasing Festival Hall is it’s going to continue to be Festival Hall,” he said.

“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 that purchases it and continues to serve, but also gets to see it be the house of God on Sundays.”

An artist’s impression of how Festival Hall could look after its purchase by the church. Photo: YouTube/Hillsong Church

Performers that have graced the venue’s stage include Frank Sinatra, Liberaca, Johnny Cash, the Red Hot Chilli Peppers, Justin Timberlake, the Foo Fighters and Lorde.

It has also hosted wrestling and boxing bouts featuring the likes of Lionel Rose and Anthony Mundine, and an indoor tennis exhibition with John McEnroe.

It was destroyed by fire in 1955 – 40 years after it opened. But it was rebuilt in time to host the gymnastics and wrestling at the Olympic Games the next year.

Fans line up for tickets to The Beatles concert at Melbourne’s Festival Hall in 1964. Photo: ABC News

Hillsong founder Brian Houston said the building needed a lot of work, and the church was hoping to renovate it.

“But we’re going to continue running it as a community venue,” he said.

When it initially put the building up for sale in 2018, Stadiums Limited had applied for a permit to demolish it and replace it with two 16-storey apartment towers.

But that proposal was thwarted when the building was heritage-listed.

Two apartment towers were proposed to replace Festival Hall before it was heritage listed.