NEWCASTLE Basketball’s long and frustrating wait for a new home might soon be over.
Lake Macquarie Council announced on Wednesday plans for a multi-million dollar complex at Hillsborough that it predicted would become “the Hunter Region’s premier indoor sports centre”.
Council staff have recommended setting aside an unused parcel of council-owned land at Hillsborough for the next 12 months, while further investigations are carried out into the feasibility of building a facility that incorporates 10 basketball courts, including a centre court capable of seating up to 4000 spectators.
If it proceeds, the new centre would replace the proposed stadium and courts at Broadmeadow, for which $5 million in state government funding was announced two years ago.
Construction has never started at that site.
Initially it was delayed by an Awabakal land-rights claim, and then a surge in participation numbers prompted Newcastle Basketball officials to reassess their requirements.
Lake Macquarie Council will consider the recommendation to set aside the 6.7-hectare parcel of land between Waratah Avenue and the Newcastle Inner City Bypass – behind Hillsborough Public School – at a meeting on Monday.
“It is still early days, but a new state-of-the-art basketball centre in the heart of Lake Macquarie would cement our city’s standing as the region’s epicentre for youth and senior sport,” Lake Macquarie mayor Kay Fraser said in a statement.
“It would also help grow sporting participation in our city, not just with basketball but netball, wheelchair sports, volleyball, school sport and futsal.
“This will significantly contribute to creating a more active, engaged and healthy community.”
Newcastle Basketball general manager Neil Goffet said his organisation had outgrown its Broadmeadow headquarters, which is more than 50 years old.
“We’re in the process of seeking NSW Government funding to establish a new facility,” Goffet said.
“Ensuring we have a modern venue to meet the growing demands of aspiring basketballers is our top priority.”
Goffet told the Herald in June that it would be ideal if Newcastle had a stadium of national-league standard.
“Part of the planning is to explore options for a WNBL team and even discussions in the future about re-entry into the NBL, but we need to get a new stadium built first,” Goffet said at the time.
When the $5 million upgrade at Broadmeadow was initially announced, in October 2016, Newcastle Basketball hoped the new arena would be completed in time to enter a team in the 2018-19 WNBL competition.
Basketball Australia told Newcastle officials to instead focus on making a successful bid for season 2019-20, but that time frame is now unrealistic.
Newcastle has not been represented in the NBL since 2006, when the Hunter Pirates folded after a three-season existence.
The Newcastle Falcons were one of the NBL's founding clubs in 1979, along with Canberra, Wollongong and Brisbane, before their demise 20 years later.
Newcastle’s most recent attempt to host NBL-standard action ended in embarrassment in September, when a trial match between Sydney Kings and Illawarra Hawks at the Newcastle Entertainment Centre was abandoned at the 11th hour because players complained the floorboards were slippery and dangerous.
An estimated 3000 spectators had their tickets refunded.
Meanwhile, former Newcastle Hunters junior Ben Simmons has rested his troublesome back as Detroit Pistons scored a dramatic 133-132 NBA overtime victory over his Philadelphia 76ers.
Simmons is no certainty for the Sixers' next assignment at the Milwaukee Bucks on Wednesday as he manages back tightness.
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