NEWCASTLE City Council lord mayor Nuatali Nelmes has described a plan to build a new multi-million dollar basketball stadium at Hillsborough instead of Broadmeadow as “absolutely foolish”.
Lake Macquarie Council announced on Wednesday that it had been in discussions with Newcastle Basketball about developing a complex on a 6.7-hectare plot of council land that it predicted would become “the Hunter Region's premier indoor sports centre”.
Councillors will consider on Monday a recommendation to set aside the parcel of land, between Waratah Avenue and the Newcastle inner-city bypass, for a 12-month period, during which a feasibility study would be undertaken.
If it proceeds, the facility would incorporate 10 basketball courts, including a centre court capable of seating up to 4000 spectators, and cater for netball, wheelchair sports, volleyball, school sport and futsal as well.
It is estimated it would cost more than $20 million and become the new home of Newcastle Basketball, instead of the on-hold redevelopment at Broadmeadow.
Plans for a new stadium and courts adjoining the ageing base at Broadmeadow were announced two years ago, along with $5 million in guaranteed state-government funding.
Construction at that site has never started, firstly because of an Awabakal land-rights claim, and then because a rapid rise in participation numbers prompted Newcastle Basketball officials to reassess their requirements.
Newcastle Basketball’s preferred option is now to secure funding for Hillsborough, where there is potentially four times as much land available and perhaps the chance to expand the premises in future years.
Lake Macquarie Council’s press release on Wednesday, however, came as a surprise to their Newcastle counterparts.
“There has been no consultation with the City of Newcastle about the relocation of major sporting facilities,” Cr Nelmes told the Newcastle Herald.
Cr Nelmes said she believed Lake Macquarie deserved a new basketball complex, but not at the expense of Broadmeadow.
“A great outcome for basketball would be a facility at Lake Macquarie to complement facilities in Newcastle, Cessnock and Maitland,” she said.
“It is absolutely foolish to suggest that Newcastle should no longer have a basketball facility because Lake Macquarie needs one …
“Imagine if we announced the City of Newcastle was relocating the Glendale athletics centre to Newcastle and closing Glendale?”
Cr Nelmes queried why Newcastle Basketball officials would consider relocating from Broadmeadow, given its close proximity to public transport and the potential benefits of being involved in the proposed sporting hub for the area.
“Why would basketball move from an area that is being developed as a national sports and entertainment precinct?” she said.
“It doesn’t make sense.”
She also took umbrage at Wednesday’s press release, in which Lake Macquarie mayor Kay Fraser was quoted as saying: “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.”
Cr Nelmes said: “Announcements about unfunded thought bubbles that are not even discussed with the affected residents of Newcastle is not the type collaborative leadership this area requires to achieve much-needed sporting infrastructure renewal.”
Asked for a response, Lake Macquarie Council provided a statement, which read: “We understand that as part of a broader regional search for a suitably sized parcel of land, Lake Macquarie City Council was approached to identify potential sites for a regional indoor sports facility.
“Council will consider a report on Monday night that enables Newcastle Basketball and council time to jointly undertake investigations into the proposed facility at Hillsborough.
“If this land is found to be suitable and funding becomes available, the proposed facility would complement other regional sporting infrastructure, including the Lake Macquarie Regional Football Facility at Speers Point and the Hunter Sports Centre at Glendale, and any national sports and entertainment facilities developed in the broader Hunter region in the future.”
Newcastle Basketball general manager Neil Goffet declined to comment on the Hillsborough proposal.
But when told of Cr Nelmes’ comments, he replied: “It certainly doesn’t surprise me that she contacted the media before contacting me directly.”
While no funding has been secured for the Hillsborough concept, the land Newcastle Basketball would vacate at Broadmeadow would potentially be a prime target for commercial development.
Meanwhile, former Newcastle Hunters junior Ben Simmons posted a triple-double for Philadelphia in their 123-108 loss to Milwaukee on Wednesday.
Simmons, returning from a back injury, finished with 14 points, 13 rebounds and 11 assists. He was outshone by Milwaukee’s Giannis Antetokounmpo, who produced 32 points, 18 rebounds and 10 assists and became the first player since Wild Chamberlain (1965-66) to record four straight 25-point, 15-rebound games to open a season.
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