Photos by Lloyd Rothwell, Stadium Journey
Stadium Info FANFARE Score: 3.86
Qudos Bank Arena Edwin Flack Ave Sydney Olympic Park NSW 2127 Australia
Year Opened: 1999
We Are All Kings
The National Basketball League (NBL) is experiencing a welcome renaissance, and the Sydney Kings are emblematic of the resurgence of interest in Australia’s domestic competition. The club dates back to 1987, having formed as a result of two foundation teams; Westars and Supersonics. Based out of the Sydney Entertainment Centre in the inner-city, the Kings were chronic underachievers until finally experiencing sustained success in the early 2000’s. Despite this, the Kings had their license revoked after the owner was unable to pay player salaries following a bad sponsorship deal. The iconic franchise was eventually relaunched for the 2010-11 season. Following the demolition of the Sydney Entertainment Centre at Darling Harbour, the club moved west to Olympic Park and now call Qudos Bank Arena home.
Qudos Bank Arena was constructed to serve as the main indoor arena for the Sydney 2000 Summer Olympics. Originally known as the Sydney Superdome, the venue adopted its current corporate moniker in 2016. With a capacity of 18,200, Qudos is the largest venue in Australia by capacity. 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. The arena is operated by AEG Ogden, who also own a majority stake in the Kings. In 2019 a new all-time NBL record crowd was set when 17,513 fans attended a Kings vs Illawarra Hawks game at Qudos.
Food & Beverage 3
The selection of food items available for purchase is relatively confined to the basics. Staple items include various hot dogs (American, Loaded, Jalapeno), fries (plain or loaded) and chicken nuggets. Wraps and salads are also on the menu. Expect to pay around $13-$14 for any of these selections, although note that Kings members receive discounts of up to $1 off the headline rate. Soft drinks, bottled water, and energy drinks cost up to $6 per item. At the bar there are a small selection of beers, wines, and pre-mixed spirits for sale for up to $13 per drink (with Kings members receiving a discount of up to $1.50 per drink).
There’s no doubt that the move west to Olympic Park, along with new ownership, has breathed new life into the franchise. Similarly, the game-day experience is much improved and continues to draw ever-increasing crowds to Qudos Bank Arena. The reputation of the league is constantly improving, with the recruitment of Andrew Bogut to the Kings effectively creating a snowball effect, as the NBL now looms large as a realistic alternative for North American based players who wish to turn pro rather than head into the college system.
Despite being 20 years old, the arena still presents exceptionally well. Upon arrival, there is a small activation precinct located in front of the building. There is a relatively quick security check outside the venue itself before you enter the large open foyer, which is adorned with large Kings banners, and also features a well-stocked merchandise stand. Also, be sure to take the opportunity to have your photo taken sitting in the large replica throne – a nice touch. Indeed for a venue that is used for numerous different events, the Kings do an excellent job of customising it for their fans.
The majority of spectators will then need to take the escalator or stairs to access their seats. Once upstairs, the walkways are wide and easily accommodate the crowd. Each bay is well-marked, making the entry hassle-free. Once inside, several features stand out. Firstly, the video screen is huge. Indeed it is 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. Hanging from the rafters above this are the Kings championship and club legends banners.
The pre-game introductions are impressive; 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. Ushers are stationed at most entrances to the seating area, and are generally friendly and helpful.
Prior to being developed as a central hub of sporting venues for the 2000 Olympics, the area that is now Sydney Olympic Park consisted of a mix of polluted former industrial land, and mangrove swamps. Following the Olympics, there has been a significant amount of on-going development to turn the precinct into a thriving live-work-play mini-city. Population within Sydney Olympic Park is expected to reach more than 30,000 in the next 20 years.
The Sydney Olympic Park precinct is a modern area consisting of major sporting and recreation venues, hotels, restaurants and bars. There are often multiple events occurring in the precinct on the same day, many of which are community-based. Visitors to the area should almost always have several options for pre or post-match entertainment. The Novotel Sydney Olympic Park has launched The Kings Bar for the 2019/20 season, which the club promotes as its preferred destination for basketball fans. The Accor group also have Pullman and Ibis hotels nearby. There are numerous casual dining options within a short walk of the arena, with Ribs & Rumps always a popular choice.
It’s also worth checking the schedules of other summer sports based at Olympic Park to consider double-header opportunities or a sporting weekend at Homebush; specifically, Sydney Thunder BBL cricket at ANZ Stadium.
As mentioned, the move west has been a successful one and fan numbers have continued to trend upwards. Average crowd numbers are around 9,000 per game, which is very respectable for the NBL in an over-saturated Sydney sports marketplace. Expect big crowds for the local derby with the Illawarra Hawks, and modern day rivals Melbourne United.
Much of the crowd is decked out in Kings purple and yellow, and is loud. 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. 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.
While there are plenty of options to choose from when travelling to Sydney Olympic Park, public transportation is usually the best option. The train station is approximately 600m walk from the arena, and should suit most fans. If you do choose to drive, note that the traffic in surrounding areas can be poor, particularly if there are several events on at the same time – it may take you 30 minutes or more to travel the last kilometer or two.
Additionally, parking is expensive. Expect to pay $25 to use one of the parking stations for the duration. P1 is the closest to Qudos Bank Arena and is easily accessed if you are approaching from the west. P2 is a little further away, but still a feasible option if you are driving in from the north. Qudos 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. Bathrooms are clean, plentiful, and remain in good condition.
Return on Investment 4
With the tickets for a family of four starting at $40 (Bronze Level), getting into the game itself is not obviously expensive. However, there are several different price points depending on the experience you’re looking for, with the best seats in the house selling for $85 for an adult. Add in parking and food mean 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 also are drawing on their impressive history. The pre-game ritual is exciting and the continual entertainment makes the game fly by.
With domestic basketball once again on the rise in Australia, now is a great time to make your acquaintance with the Sydney Kings and Qudos Bank Arena.