IT is costing the taxpayers $5 million, but will Newcastle’s new basketball stadium be big enough to accommodate a National Basketball League team?
Parliamentary Secretary for the Hunter Scot MacDonald announced on Monday that a grant for the new facility had been approved, from the Hunter Infrastructure and Investment Fund.
At the announcement, Newcastle Basketball general manager Neil Goffet said the upgrade would mean that: “Any NBL or WNBL teams who want to play games at the stadium [now can].”
Yet the new “show court” will seat only 2000 fans, and the average crowd in this season’s round-one NBL games was more than 7500.
The best crowd of the opening round was in Perth (12,701), followed by Melbourne (8519), Sydney (8035), Brisbane (6619), Auckland (5639) and Wollongong (3247).
Newcastle Basketball president Greg Luck told the Herald the immediate aim would be to secure entry into the Women’s Basketball League for the 2018-19 season.
If an inaugural WNBL team proved sustainable, Luck said the ultimate goal would “definitely” be to return to the NBL, which has not featured a Newcastle team since the demise of the Hunter Pirates in 2006.
“If we can afford to run a WNBL team and be successful, it would then open the door to look at the NBL,’’ he said.
“The NBL is in a restructuring phase. They have eight teams but they probably need more to make it financially viable. The Brisbane Bullets are back, and I think they want foundation clubs back in. And obviously the Newcastle Falcons were a foundation club.’’
Asked if a 2000-seat stadium was big enough to support an NBL team, Luck replied: “It all depends on your ticket structure, I guess. You’d rather fill a 2000-seat stadium where you’ve got all the catering and liquor rights, than play somewhere like the Entertainment Centre where you need to get 3000 just to break even.’’
Luck said Newcastle Basketball had expressed interest in forming a WNBL team and was waiting to receive Basketball Australia’s entry criteria, after which a business plan would be submitted.
“The WNBL is certainly feasible,’’ Luck said.
“The NBL has become more attractive now that the costs have come down, compared to what it was. But like everything you’ve got to get sponsors and the community behind you ... we would have to be aiming for a minimum of break even. I do know part of the criteria is we would have to have enough sponsors for a five-year period, not just one year.’’
Basketball Australia’s competitions general manager, Paul Maley, said the new stadium was “exciting news” and Newcastle probably had the population base to support a WNBL team.
“But at this stage it is only hypothetical,’’ he said. “We haven’t received a bid and any bid would have to go through due process.’’