Former Singapore Badminton Hall
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The former Singapore Badminton Hall, located at 100 Guillemard Road, was built specially to defend the Thomas Cup first won in 1949 by the Malayan team. Although the Badminton Hall was not completed in time for the 1952 games, it hosted subsequent Thomas Cup matches. Over the years, it was used as the venue for other sporting matches, entertainment activities and key political events.
Need for a badminton hall
In the early years, competitive badminton games were played in the Singapore Volunteer Corps Drill Hall but the heat from the zinc roofs was uncomfortable for both players and spectators. Aw Boon Haw, the patron of the Singapore Badminton Association, built the Clerical Union Hall at Rangoon Road, where matches were played and Thomas Cup players trained. However, the Clerical Union Hall proved to be inadequate for tournaments, for instance due to unsuitable lighting for competitive matches.
By 1935, there were calls for a purpose-built badminton hall. A site near the Post Office Club in Serangoon Road was selected but the untimely death in 1939 of the Singapore Badminton Association president, Chuah Keh Hai, put an end to this project.
In 1949, the Malayan badminton team clinched the first-ever Thomas Cup. This meant that Malaya would have to host the Thomas Cup to be played in 1952. Lim Chuan Geok, President of the Singapore Badminton Association, called for the building of a badminton hall to host international badminton tournaments. In May 1949, the Badminton Hall Fund Committee, chaired by John Laycock, was formed to raise funds for the construction of the hall.
Building the hall
In February 1951, a two-acre, 99-year lease site along Guillemard Road was approved for the venture. Plans for the building included four badminton courts and seating for up to 5,500 spectators. There would also be a canteen, banqueting room, changing rooms and offices. Prior to construction, old army shells discovered at the site had to be removed. During its construction, the hall was known as the Singapore Badminton Association Hall.
From the start, funding was a problem. During the same period, the government announced plans to build a stadium at Anson Road that would house a badminton hall. This led to the mistaken belief that a badminton hall was no longer required, which resulted in dwindling donations for the new hall. Plans for the stadium were eventually shelved, while the need for a badminton hall became even more critical. In addition, the expected construction costs, initially estimated at $200,000, more than quadrupled. As patron of the Association, Aw Boon Haw contributed more than $500,000, while fundraising brought in a further $225,000. The remaining deficit was contributed by an anonymous donor who was later revealed as C. H. Tong, the hall's building contractor.
Disagreements within the Management Committee primarily because of the lack of funding and increased construction costs led to the resignation of Laycock as chairman of the Badminton Hall Fund Committee, and the formation of a new committee under Tan Lark Sye.
The Badminton Hall was finally completed in May 1952 at a cost of $804,000, with architects fees of $520,000 and piling costing $70,000. Lim, Tong and Aw were credited with its successful construction, and there were suggestions that the wings of the hall be named after them. Nevertheless, an outstanding debt of $600,000 left the Association in the red, and the costs, together with the ownership of the hall, had to be transferred to the Singapore government.
Although the hall was completed in time for the 2nd Thomas Cup tournament in 1952, it took place instead at the Happy World Stadium (now Geylang Indoor Stadium) because it was considered too risky for the Malayan players to defend their title at a venue where they had not practised. In the event, Malaya successfully retained the Cup.
The hall was officially opened on 8 June 1952 by Governor John F. Nicoll. The Malayan team took the Thomas Cup for the third consecutive time at the hall in 1955. In 1958, however, Malaya lost the Cup to Indonesia.
Besides badminton matches, for a number of years the hall was also the venue of choice for other sports tournaments such as sepak takraw, table tennis and taekwon-do.
A historical site
The hall witnessed significant events in Singapore's history. It hosted entertainment events such as plays, movie screenings, talentimes and dance competitions, and even performances by the strip-tease dancer Rose Chan. Radio Singapore staged its Puspawarna Singapura variety shows at the hall in 1959 and 1960. The Rolling Stones' appearance at the hall in 1965 was preceded by Cliff Richard and the Shadows, who appeared in a landmark 1961 performance that greatly influenced local popular music in the 1960s. The hall was a coveted performance venue among local bands, and successful acts that played there included The Quests and The Trailers.
The hall also served as the site of key political events such as the People's Action Party's election victory rally in 1959, and as a vote-counting station for the merger referendum in 1962. During trade union unrest in the 1960s, trade union meetings and rallies were held at the hall.
The hall had been leased to the Singapore Badminton Association for use as its headquarters since 1 February 1978 and managed by the Singapore Sports Council. On 1 September 1999, the National Heritage Board recognised the hall as a historical site. In January 2008, the land lease expired and the hall was relinquished to the state. In 2009, the hall reopened as Guillemard Village, a take on 1950s amusement parks such as Gay World.
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The information in this article is valid as at 2010 and correct as far as we are able to ascertain from our sources. It is not intended to be an exhaustive or complete history of the subject. Please contact the Library for further reading materials on the topic.
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