NEWCASTLE Basketball officials will resume their quest to launch a team in the Women's National Basketball League after confirmation on Tuesday that they have secured state-government funding for a new $25 million stadium at Hillsborough.
Construction of the 10-court stadium, which will include a show court capable of seating 4000 spectators, is expected to start within the next 12 months.
Once completed, the new facility will provide Newcastle Basketball with a facility compliant with WNBL requirements.
The next step will be to present a business case that convinces Basketball Australia that the city can sustain its inaugural team in the WNBL competition.
"We've been in discussions with Basketball Australia for two to three years," Newcastle Basketball general manager Neil Goffet told the Herald.
"Those discussions will obviously ramp up now because we will have a compliant and capable facility built within two years, hopefully.
"The facility was the first step. And after yesterday's announcement, and the tireless good work of [Member for Lake Macquarie] Greg Piper and a lot of others behind the scenes, we will have a facility built that meets regulations for any national or international competition that comes our way.
"Hopefully Basketball Australia have expansion plans on the horizon and we can be part of those."
Goffet was confident that as an association, Newcastle Basketball, with the help of sponsors, would be able to financially sustain a WNBL team. He said that fielding a team in the men's NBL was another matter that would cost "big bucks" and require private investment.
Newcastle's two previous NBL entities, Newcastle Falcons and Hunter Pirates, both folded because of financial pressures.
"I think we could run a WNBL team, with community support, in regards to sponsorships and partnerships," he said.
"An NBL team would need some private backing ... if the WNBL team eventuates and is viable, it may put us in a position down the track to look at reviving an NBL team."
The Hillsborough stadium would be too small to accommodate an NBL team, but Venues NSW has plans for a multi-purpose indoor arena in the proposed Broadmeadow sporting precinct.
Goffet said it would be "fantastic" to eventually have an NBL team reborn in Newcastle.
"It's not on our horizon currently," he said.
"But the WNBL, we're hoping that with the help of the community that we could manage that."
He was hopeful that the proposed sporting precinct would enable basketball to retain some presence in Broadmeadow, as well as at Hillsborough.
"We've openly said to Venues NSW that we're more than open to whatever plans they have for Broadmeadow," he said.
"It would be fantastic to have two venues where we can play. The more courts we can get, the better, because we're currently turning people away."
Newcastle has a proud reputation for producing outstanding women basketballers, including Olympians Suzy Batkovic, Jenni Screen and Katie-Rae Ebzery.
Batkovic, one of the all-time greats of the WNBL, has often said that one of the few regrets of her illustrious career was being unable to represent her home town on a national stage.
The Newcastle Hunters women's team are currently unbeaten leaders in the NSW Waratah League competition. They last won the title in 2016, and the men were champions last year.
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