WHEN the Jim Pritchard Hall was opened at Wickham in 1979, badminton players rejoiced in having their own purpose-built facility.
Now, 34 years on, the Albert Street facility is beginning to show signs of decay and a campaign has begun to find money to repair the four courts.
This weekend, the courts will host the Newcastle Open, attracting badminton players from Sydney and Armidale.
The centre remains one of the only purpose-built badminton facilities in NSW, but its ability to host major events could be threatened.
"When it was first built, it was done under a work-for-the-dole government project and the building never got the correct amount of concrete ties put in the building, so it has led to cracking and instability," Hunter Badminton Association president Tony Morgan said.
"There's no immediate danger, but we've had some engineers' reports saying we should be doing something about it.
"When we've quoted it all up, it's just blown out."
Quotes for the repairs are as high as $128,000, which would drain the club's coffers.
The Jim Pritchard Hall is owned by the association, but it is built on Newcastle City Council land.
When asked if the structural damage to the building would lead to the closure of the courts if it was not repaired, Morgan said: "We have a duty of care and we want to be proactive and maintain the facility.
"I can't speculate if we'd shut down totally but, with the size of the initial quotes that we got, we'd be wiped out and would be starting afresh and be going nowhere for a while."
It is hoped the campaign to fund a renovation of the courts will also attract more badminton players.
"We've experienced some growth and we're carrying the banner for the whole of region because it's nearly the only purpose-built facility in NSW," Morgan said.
"Anywhere else, you're playing on a multi-purpose court with other lines and bad lighting, so we're trying to maintain the only facility we have."
The Hunter Badminton Association has more than 200 regular members.
Entries are still open for today's singles and mixed doubles in the Newcastle Open and in tomorrow's men's and ladies' doubles.
Newcastle pair Matt Searles and Ken Yeung are considered the best hope of a local victory in the most hotly contested category, the men's doubles.