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Official Review by Lloyd Rothwell, Stadium Journey Regional Correspondent
Qudos Bank Arena, originally known as the Sydney Superdome, was completed in 1999 as part of the Sydney Olympic Park for the Sydney Olympics. Basketball capacity is 18,200, making it the largest capacity indoor arena in Australia.
During the Olympics the basketball and gymnastic events were held at the Dome, but since then it has hosted many concerts, conferences, and sporting events including basketball, netball, ice hockey, and tennis. Given its size, the Dome was the site of the largest ever netball crowd in the world during the Netball World Cup in 2015. Similarly, the largest ever basketball crowd in Australia was hosted at Qudos Bank Arena in 1999. However, the Sydney Kings are the only sporting team to call the Arena their permanent home; this is their second stint at Olympic Park following the demolition of the Sydney Entertainment Centre in early 2016.
This is the second era of the Kings following their re-birth in 2010. Originally admitted to the National Basketball League (NBL) in 1988, the club folded following financial collapse in 2008, despite winning the championship in 2003, 2004 and 2005. A number of other entities have represented the Harbour City in the NBL over the years, including the West Sydney Westars, Sydney Supersonics, West Sydney Razorbacks, and Sydney Spirit, but for the majority of Sydneysiders, the Kings have always been Sydney's NBL team.
The FANFARE scale is our metric device for rating each stadium experience. It covers the following:
Each area is rated from 0 to 5 stars with 5 being the best. The overall composite score is the "FANFARE Score".
The range and quality is definitely a step up from what Kings fans experienced at the Entertainment Centre. The usual burgers and hot dogs are always popular, and are complemented by some clever marketing - "The King's Burger" and "Gaze's Buffalo Po Boy". Beer and wine are also available, with prices in the $7-$8 range, while soft drinks are $5; pre-mixed spirit cans are $11. Qudos Bank Arena also helpfully has a downloadable list for those with special dietary requirements on their website:
The Sydney Kings ownership model was revised as of 2016, with the club now owned by AEG Ogden. That being the case, it was a natural move to Qudos Bank Arena, which is operated by AEG, once the Entertainment Centre at Darling Harbour was demolished. The brand has also been slightly modified as a result, although the purple and yellow originally adopted to emulate the Los Angeles Lakers remains. The venue itself still appears relatively modern despite the fact it is now almost twenty years old. It is comfortable and clean.
Despite the numerous events held at the Arena, the Kings have made it their own for basketball season. The large open foyer is dominated by the "We Are All Kings" banners which frame the merchandise outlet. Once inside, several features stand out. Firstly, the video screen is huge - reportedly the largest indoor screen in the Southern Hemisphere. This is a welcome addition, as many Australian venues are only just now starting to realize the value a large screen can make to the fan experience. One end of the arena is dedicated to the club; a large stage at floor level features the words "Sydney Kings" spelt out in large capital letters and illuminated by soft purple lighting. Hanging from the rafters above this are the Kings championship and club legends banners.
The pre-game introductions are impressive. The game we attended included club legend Steve Carfino, as well as a video montage proclaiming "A New Kingdom" in recognition of the move west to Olympic Park. Similarly, the "lights out" announcement is a great way to engage the crowd, who respond by holding their mobile phones in the air. During the game, the announcer and musical interludes are well done and add to the experience. Additionally, there are cheerleaders and a mascot.
The Sydney Olympic Park precinct is a modern area consisting of major sporting and recreation venues, hotels, restaurants, and bars. While it is true that the area largely depends on major events to create "buzz," there is generally enough around to give you decent pre or post game options regardless of your preferences. It's also worth checking the schedules of other summer sports based at Olympic Park to consider doubleheader opportunities or a sporting weekend at Homebush; specifically, Sydney Thunder BBL cricket or the Greater Western Sydney Giants, both of which are at nearby Spotless Stadium.
Kings fans appear to have embraced their new home at Sydney Olympic Park. Much of the crowd is decked out in Kings purple and yellow, and they are loud! The attendance will vary slightly depending on game time and opponent, with Saturday nights seemingly the biggest draw.
There are a number of cheers initiated by the announcer, and the crowd responds to all of them, as well as generally remaining vocal and focused on the game at all times. "Go Kings, Go" is a familiar refrain throughout the game, and the "Dance Cam" and "Kiss Kam" are popular and well received. The atmosphere is infectious and you can't help but be impressed. The Kings have focused on entertainment and their fans obviously agree with what they're seeing; check out this quick video to see their excitement:
There are plenty of travel options when heading to Sydney Olympic Park. If you plan on driving, check to see what other events are being hosted at the Park that day; there can be traffic hassles and difficulty parking if it's a particularly busy day. Driving is a good option most of the time, though; parking in the P1 car park will cost a maximum of $25 for the duration.
If you're considering public transport, a train is a good bet with the station only a short walk from Qudos Bank Arena. Due to its size, the dome is well suited to crowds, and the concourses are generally wide and easy to negotiate. There are bag searches and security to pass through upon entry, but that is fairly common at most venues these days.
With adult tickets starting from $26, seeing the Kings at Qudos Bank Arena represents good value. There are discounts for children and from concession holders, in addition to a family pass, and platinum tickets are $62 per adult. All up it won't necessarily be a cheap day out, but the fan experience and quality production the Kings are putting on make it worth your cash.
It's the little things that make the difference, and the Kings have delivered. The timing just seems right for the club at the moment; they are rightfully proclaiming a new era, yet are also drawing on their history. Special mention goes for involving Steve Carfino and the tributes to the late Mike Wrubleswski. Also, the pre-game ritual is exciting, and the continual entertainment makes the game fly by.
The new era of Sydney Kings basketball has arrived. A dazzling start to the 2016-17 season, an exciting playing roster, and great fans makes basketball at Qudos Bank Arena an experience fit for a King.
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Sydney Olympic Park, NSW 2127
02 9714 7888
Sydney Olympic Park, NSW 2127
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