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Festival Hall saved from the wrecking ball – for now
Written by
Nicola Dowse

Festival Hall has been granted a reprieve from the wrecking ball after the Victorian Heritage Council granted the long-standing live music and sports venue permanent protections.

In 2017 an application was submitted to Melbourne City Council asking for the venue to be demolished and a block of apartments built on the site. However, the Victorian Heritage Council has ruled that the venue is deserving of heritage protections given its history as a purpose-built boxing and wrestling venue.

While many are familiar with Festival Hall as the site where both the Beatles and Judy Garland performed in Melbourne (alongside contemporary artists like Radiohead, Courtney Barnett and Kanye West), the venue also hosted gymnastic events during the 1956 Olympics as well as numerous boxing and wrestling matches. Boxers Lionel Rose and Johnny Famechon have fought there, with Rose’s funeral held at the site in 2011.

While the new heritage protections will make it significantly harder to knock down, Festival Hall could still be demolished in the future. However, any party wishing to demolish Festival Hall would need to prove that the venue could not be made profitable.

The venue currently belongs to Stadiums Limited, which planned to sell the venue so that apartments could be built on the site. The company cited competition from similar venues like Margaret Court Arena as the reason for the planned sale.

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