Basketball future in spotlight

OPPORTUNITY: Basketball Mount Gambier board member Jonathon Lillecrapp and basketball development manager Matt Sutton will be among members discussing the future of the sport at a forum on Wednesday night. A tabled discussion paper considers the opportunity to relocate to Mount Gambier City Council’s proposed sport and recreation centre as a way forward. Picture: BRITTANY DENTON

MOUNT Gambier’s peak basketball association has revealed it is facing “growing challenges” to maintain the 50 year old Bern Bruning Stadium in fit-for-purpose condition for its 600 playing members.

The board of Basketball Mount Gambier will discuss the future of the sport with its members at an information forum at the stadium tomorrow night.

A tabled discussion paper – which will be distributed to members ahead of the forum – considers relocation to Mount Gambier City Council’s proposed multi-purpose sport and recreation centre at Olympic Park.

While the council’s proposed $39.1m centre has attracted a $15m federal allocation, lobbying continues to secure a portion of funding from the State Government to make the vision a potential reality.

The council would also need to make a significant contribution to the project and the federal allocation is contingent on the council’s public poll after the Local Government election showing support for the facility.

With uncertainty over the future of the proposed recreation centre, the basketball community is seeking a way forward.

“To maintain the current facility is expensive and to upgrade or bring it up to a national standard so we can host state competitions will be a multi-million dollar exercise,” board member Jonathon Lillecrapp explained.

“The alternative is we can walk into a brand new facility and pay a fee for service.

“We have a number of options and we have asked former City Council chief executive Greg Muller to prepare a discussion paper for us outlining future infrastructure requirements and financial considerations.”

The state’s peak body – Basketball SA – highlighted the need for a four court facility in Mount Gambier in its 2016 facilities report.

While the Bern Bruning Stadium has expanded to include grandstands, a third court and additional toilets since it was opened in 1969, the stadium is largely still its original “tin shed” construction.

“It is terribly cold here in winter and terribly hot in summer, it is an ice house one minute and a hot box the next,” Mr Lillecrapp said.

“This facility is coming up to being 50 years old – if we stay here we will need to upkeep this stadium, add a fourth court extension and improve the facilities – the change rooms and offices are in poor condition.

“If the rec centre goes ahead any grant funding we might have accessed to upgrade this stadium will likely dry up.

“We have 600 playing members and we believe we need to engage with them and ask for their opinion.”

Mr Lillecrapp said the board wanted to engage with its membership ahead of the community survey set to be distributed this month or in December.

“Basketball would be a major user of the proposed sports hub – currently we play six hours a day four or five nights a week, plus training on the weekend whenever teams can get together,” he said.

“The public vote is coming up and we want our members to be informed.

“We just think it is in our best interests to be transparent and seek feedback about the dilemma we are facing.

“We have done some cost modelling and we will address a number of issues at the forum, including the potential to have the same number of players or grow our playing membership at a new facility.”

All Basketball Mount Gambier members are invited to attend the forum in the Beth Serle Function Room at 6.30pm on Wednesday night.

A further statement will be issued by the board following the forum.