THE STADIUM WITHOUT ANY FOOTBALL

Ticket to The Beatles Concer t at the Stadium (1964)

Yes! Sydney once had a stadium that never saw a game of football played within its grounds.

Erected on the site of a former Chinese market garden in 1908, by one Hugh Donald Macintosh as an open air venue for sporting events, it was originally built with a view to attracting visiting American seamen from the visit to Sydney of the US fleet to a boxing tournament between Canadian Tommy Burns and Australian Bill Squires. The event failed to attract the visiting Americans with only two American seamen turning up, who were both ejected from the stadium due to drunkenness. The event, however, proved to be popular with the locals with an estimated 12,000 attending. Later, on the appropriately named Boxing Day of 1908, a much larger crowd of more than 20,000 attended to watch Jack Johnson (an African-American) challenge Tommy Burns for the Heavyweight World championship. (A world first for a white versus black world championship bout). Johnson won the championship from Burns.

Four years later, the Stadium was reconfigured into an octagonal structure with corrugated iron walls and roof and raked wooden seats facing the stage or ring and could accommodate around 12,000 patrons and was used mainly as a boxing venue until the mid-1900s.

In the 1950s and 60s it became better known as a entertainment venue after expatriate American impresario Lee Gordon sought to introduce world famous entertainers to Sydney and sought a location that would hold audiences big enough to finance the venture. At first the shows operated at a financial loss as many Sydneysiders considered it to be a dubious hoax. They were not used to well-known popular entertainers visiting Sydney. The second show promoted by Lee Gordon was much more successful after Lee Gordon heavily promoted the concert offering two for one vouchers dropped by air from a plane. The Stadium became known colloquially by the visiting entertainers as “The Old Tin Shed”.

Many “big time” entertainers, both overseas and local, found their fame extended after appearances before the crowds of local fans at “The Tin Shed”. Amongst the more notable entertainers were Frank Sinatra, Johnny Ray, Bill Haley, Johnny O’Keefe, Peter, Paul and Mary, Johnny Devlin, The Beach Boys, Bob Dylan, Gerry & The Pacemakers, Cliff Richard, Chuck Berry and, in their only Sydney performance, The Beatles.

The venue was also the Sydney home to “World Championship Wrestling” and “The Roller Game” both popular on TV’s Channel 9 in the 1960s.

Many Sydneysiders hold fond memories of traipsing down to the corner of New South Head Rd and Neild Ave at Rushcutters Bay to watch the Wrestling, the Roller Derby or the world famous entertainers. I can recall going to the Tin Shed to watch and listen to “the Man who shot Liberty Valance”, Gene Pitney, who, I can honestly say, was more than “24 Hours From Tulsa”. What are your memories of the time?

The Stadium was demolished in 1970 after 62 years of operation to allow for the construction of the Eastern Suburbs Railway.