The future of the Sydney Entertainment Centre appears to hang in the balance after a spiralling chain of events climaxed with the eviction of the venue's tenants.

At least 20 staff involved in running the arena lost their jobs yesterday (Aug.6) after the Sydney Harbour Foreshore Authority terminated its lease with Arena Management, the venue's troubled operator.

Arena Management had entered into receivership last Friday (billboard.biz, July 31) after accruing massive debts, and the authority wasted little time in ousting its tenants, citing breach of its lease agreement. Foreshore Authority CEO Robert Domm said on Thursday his organization would manage the facility "on an interim basis."

The authority today (Aug. 7) assured ticket holders and promoters that all bookings would go ahead as planned.

A solid line-up of international stars is slated at the venue over the coming weeks and months, including Alice Cooper, Il Divo, Cliff Richard and the Shadows, Liza Minnelli and Keith Urban.

"Our key priority is to keep the SEC's doors open, ensure ticket holders get to see their shows and protect the centre's position as Australia's premier entertainment venue," said Domm in a statement.

Just before the close of business hours on Friday, the authority announced it had struck an agreement with Ticketmaster, which would help secure the SEC's viability in the short term and ensure the ticket booking office at remained open. According to the terms of the deal, Ticketmaster will continue to handle ticketing for the venue and will have staff on site at the ticketing office. The Darling Harbour Convention and Exhibition Centre has also stepped up to assist the authority in managing the SEC for "the foreseeable future."

Word of the SEC situation spread rapidly through the national live industry. A competitor venue operator who spoke with Billboard said the development was no laughing matter. "This could be damaging for our business," said the executive, who asked to remain anonymous.

Veteran impresario Kevin Jacobsen, the chairman of Arena Management, had tried to shop the ongoing SEC business to third parties. Some months ago, AEG Ogden had entered into a binding head of terms agreement for the SEC, but pulled out when accountants conducting due diligence revealed "serious problems" with the operation of the venue.

Arena Management had leased the 12,500-capacity venue on Sydney's scenic Darling Harbour since November 1983. The current lease, which commenced in 2003, involved an initial term of five years, with a further two options of five years each.