Holden Centre

The Holden Centre serves as a centre of excellence for professional organisations and elite athletes. The venue was originally built to host the 1956 Melbourne Olympic Games’ swimming, diving and water polo competitions. The Holden Centre as it is now known, has fulfilled a variety of purposes and is now the training and administration base of the Collingwood Magpies football and netball clubs.

FAST FACTS

    First opened: 1956
    Tenant clubs: Collingwood Magpies AFL and netball teams

Construction

A competition was held in 1952 to establish a design team to construct the Olympic Pool. On Christmas Eve of the same year, architects Kevin Borland, Peter McIntyre, John and Phyllis Murphy and engineer Bill Irwin were announced as the winners.

Peter McIntyre's inspiration was essentially the competition requiring the most economic building.

“The most challenging aspect of the construction was to convince the authorities the building would stand up! It was the first time in the world that post tension high tensile steel was being used in such a way,” said McIntyre.

“The way we reduced the amount of steel was to use the principle of counter balancing of forces. In other words, the accrual loads on the building were counteracted by applying the weight of the seats on both sides of the main span,” explained McIntyre.

Construction commenced in October 1954 and was only made possible through the most modern building materials and engineering technology of the time.

Olympic Games

Come the much anticipated Olympic swimming competition and the heroes for Australia were Dawn Fraser, Lorraine Crapp and Murray Rose. All up, the Aussies won eight gold, four silver and two bronze in the pool.

Westpac Centre
Olympic Pool architects
Westpac Centre

Controversy

While Melbourne was known as the 'friendly Games', an exception occurred in the water polo competition. Amid the backdrop of the Hungarian Revolution, the USSR and Hungary played out their political differences in a spiteful encounter that required police to shepherd away angry spectators near the end. Hungary enjoyed the last laugh, winning the Semi-Final 4-0 and then taking the gold. A film 'Children of Glory' includes a re-enactment of the 'blood in the water' match (below) whilst a documentary 'Freedom's Fury' (produced by Quentin Tarantino and Lucy Liu, narrated by Mark Spitz) reunites players from both sides who tell the story of the 'bloodiest game in Olympic history'.

Melbourne Sports & Entertainment Centre

As plans to refurbish the Olympic Pool building drew media attention in 1981, Chairman of the National Trust, Rodney Davidson, was quoted as saying the building was “of the greatest importance architecturally and historically".

The Olympic Pool was replaced by a parquetry floor in 1983, and the 7,200 seat venue (below) became the city's primary entertainment facility. Following the $10.5 million renovation, the Melbourne Sports & Entertainment Centre known as 'The Glasshouse', hosted international entertainers the calibre of Elton John and legendary band Queen. The diverse array of events at MSEC included concerts, family shows, gymnastics, World Indoor Cricket Championships, boxing and BMX Championships.

The first NBL game at The Glasshouse was a double header on 4 April 1984. St Kilda defeated Nunawading and Geelong beat Coburg. The Centre became synonymous with Victorian basketball and the NBL's boom period. By 1987 four Victorian clubs called The Glasshouse home and by 1990-91 nearly 60 games were played there per season. In fact, such was the popularity, as the decade progressed games were increasingly transferred across the road to Rod Laver Arena.

The venue hosted its final match 5 June 1998 (North Melbourne v Perth), after an NBL record of 343 games. This figure included Championship deciders in 1984, 1988, 1989, and 1994, as well as all-star games in 1988, 1989 and 1991.

Holden Centre Renovation

In 2002 the heritage listed Olympic Pool was returned to its original shape, with a $20 million refurbishment overseen by one of the original architects Peter McIntyre. Its restoration reflected key elements of its original award winning plans. The new facilities, used by Collingwood Football Club and Victorian Institute of Sport, included administration offices, theatrette, exhibition space, world class gymnasium, 25m lap pool and hydrotherapy spa. A magnificent $25 million addition to the Holden Centre was opened in 2015, making superb new training and community facilities available for high-performance athletes and grass-roots level leisure and sports initiatives alike.

Fifty years after its design, the Olympic Swimming pool was Victorian Heritage listed, being the last remaining stadium structure from the 1956 Olympic Games and architecturally significant as an early example of pre-tensioned steel framed construction.

Glasshouse
North Melbourne Giants