Hillsong Melbourne has announced that they have completed the purchase of the iconic Festival Hall for a cool $23,375,000, turning the famed concert venue into their new church home.
The controversial, prosperity-preaching state church, which is “pastored” by Tim & Nicola Douglass, has been looking for a new home for years. Having no permanent location, they’ve frequently have been nomadic, offering 10 services across 4 locations, usually in theaters and halls rented out for the day, having to do teardowns and set ups each week.
The purchase of the hall has not been without controversy. Initially opened in 1913, it has functioned as major cultural attraction for over 100 years, hosting concerts from Frank Sinatra and the Beatles, to Ed Sheeran and Lorde. It has also hosted the Olympic games and other sporting events. Put up for sale almost three years ago and requiring millions of dollars of investment to compete with newer venues, it had been generally assumed it would be flattened and converted into multi-level apartments, retail, and commercial development, until being declared a heritage site and thwarting those plans.
Along with the purchase of the hall comes large buildout costs, with the church likely to spend up to another $10-15 million on a major renovation, adding multiple stories for added functionality, including space for the nursery, children’s church, offices, coffee shops, and other ministries. The concert hall as it is holds seating for 5000 people, but that number will likely change. The church has also indicated that it may still be open to the public in some capacity, however. According to Pastor Tim:
“The cool thing about purchasing Festival Hall is it’s going to continue to be Festival Hall. 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.”