OLD AND TIRED: The Newcastle basketball stadium at Broadmeadow is much loved, but it was built more than 50 years ago. In recent times, the roof has been known to leak when it rains. NO sport in has as much potential for rapid growth as basketball.
Just consider the plight of its rival codes.
n cricket, in terms of on-field performances at least, is at its lowest ebb since the mid-1980s. The men in Baggy Greens nonetheless look like world-beaters compared to the Wallabies.
Rugby league has never been so commercially secure, yet precious little seems to filter down to the grassroots level. And its TV ratings, crowd figures and participation numbersare apparently flat-lining.
AFL isa juggernaut across the Murray River, yet remains a non-entity in every other corner of the world.
Soccer is desperately hoping expansion will prove a panacea for the A-League, even though at least two of the existing clubs are struggling to remain viable.
Netball will always be strong domestically, but only New Zealand and England provide half-decent opposition internationally.
Then we come backto basketball, which in so many ways appears a sleeping giant.
This year a record 10 ns are involvedin America’s NBA competition, including former Newcastle Hunters junior Ben Simmons, who after just one full season is being compared with some of the all-time greats.
In less than two years, will send men’s and women’s teams to the Tokyo Olympics with realistic prospects of taking on the Yanks in their respective gold-medal games.
The n men’s NBL, which has at various times resembled a shot duck, is enjoying a resurgence in popularity, aided largely by the coup of luring superstar Andrew Bogut back from America.
The women’s national league is one of the world’s best, albeit not as financially rewarding as America or some parts of Europe.
And in terms of juniors, many of whom are no doubt aspiring to emulatethe deeds of Simmons and company in the NBA, the numbers are multiplying at an exponential rate.
By every measure, the game appearson the verge of booming. Everywhere, that is, except in Newcastle.
Basketball in this city should be thriving. In June I reported that registered players have grown from 2200 to 3500 in the space oftwo years, earningNewcastleBasketball accolades for being the state’s top association in 2017andalso the No.1 “Sporting Schools”program in .
The Newcastle Hunters men’s team finished the recent Waratah League season as champions.
Yet Newcastle will never be able to realise its true potential until it has the facilities it deserves.
Newcastle Basketball currently has six courts at theBroadmeadow premises it has called home for more than50 years, plus another two it hires from Hunter Sports High.
It’s barely enough to service the region’s kids and social players, let alone entertain any thoughts of entering a team, or teams, at national-league level.
Two years ago, the state government provided apparent salvation when itannounced $5 million in funding for a new complex at Broadmeadow, including a 2000-seat show court.
Construction was delayed by an Awabakal land-rights claim, and in the interim Newcastle Basketball started having second thoughts. The new facility, they felt, would not be big enough.
Rather than proceed as planned, they put the project on hold and started exploring other options.
Eventually came this week’s announcement that Lake Macquarie Council will meet on Monday to consider setting aside a 6.7-hectare parcel of land at Hillsborough, which –should Newcastle Basketball secure an estimated $20 million in funding –would potentially accommodate 10 basketball courts, including a centre court capable of seating up to 4000 spectators.
Moreover, there would be enough land for further courts to be added in future, should the need arise.
All this went down like a lead balloon with Newcastle City Council Lord Mayor Nuatali Nelmes, who believes basketball should remain atBroadmeadow and featurein the proposed District Park sporting precinct.
That makes sense to me – providing the complex on offer isat least of the same standardas what is being proposed for Hillsborough.
If that can’t be guaranteed, it’s pretty much a no-brainer for Newcastle Basketball. Their priority is to enshrine the long-term future of their sport and providethe best possible amenities for their junior players.
If Lake Macquarie Council can offer a viablesolution, in the shortest possible time frame, then Newcastle Basketball are duty bound to at least investigateit.
Any friction between the two councils is not really an issue for the basketball officials, nor the youngsters who just want to play.
It’s notas if Newcastle Basketball would be relocating interstate. Hillsborough is less than 10 kilometresfrom Broadmeadow.
In saying that, Broadmeadow is well serviced by public transport, and in an ideal world, abasketball stadium would sit snugly alongside all the other grand plans for the much-vaunted sporting precinct.
As things stand, it would seem the ball is in Newcastle City Council’scourt, andthe shot clock is ticking. They need to make a play to stay in the game.