THOUSANDS of Hunter basketball fans were left shocked and disappointed after a trial match between the Sydney Kings and the Illawarra Hawks at the Newcastle Entertainment Centre on Saturday was called off as it was due start.
Kings superstar Andrew Bogut, playing in Newcastle for the first time, informed an almost sell out crowd of about 3000 just after the scheduled 5pm tip-off time that the game was cancelled due to the unsafe state of the court.
Bogut said condensation had left the court like an ‘ice rink’.
The NBA Championship-winner and headline act apologised to the fans and reiterated that the situation was out of their control.
Kings general manager Jeff Van Groningen and Newcastle Entertainment Centre general manager Chris Blanch also addressed the crowd.
Blanch told patrons, which had travelled from as far as Wolllongong and Coffs Harbour, that all tickets would be refunded.
The Kings later issued a statement confirming that the court was unsafe for play.
“The surface was too slippery and the venue has accepted full responsibility for preparing a court that was unsafe to be played on,” it said. “It was not a decision that was made lightly, with both teams agreeing that it would be too dangerous take part.
“The Sydney Kings were very excited to be able to bring the NBL back to Newcastle after more than a decade, and share in the frustrations of the fans that had turned up to the venue.
“We are committed to bringing basketball back to the Hunter, and hope that the local community will continue to show their support for their Kings as was evident by the crowd today.”
In a farcical situation, NEC staff had mops and buckets and were wiping the floor in a bid to clear the condensation an hour before the tip off.
Players from both teams were on the court shooting but did not do a proper warm-up.
The Herald was told that players had encountered difficulties with the floor during the “shoot around” on Saturday morning.
Both teams stayed on court for an hour after the match was abandoned meeting fans and signing autographs.
The match was the first between two National Basketball League teams to be staged in Newcastle since the demise of the Hunter Pirates at the end of the 2005-06 season.
Temporary flooring, the same that had been in use for Pirates games, had been in place since at least Tuesday.
The venue is due to host a netball test between Australia and England on September 19. It last hosted a netball international in 2012. The iconic Harlem Globetrotters also played a match at the venue in 2014.
Newcastle basketball officials, who were not involved in the promotion, spoke Van Groningen and offered their facility at Broadmeadow for the game but the Kings declined.
In a statement on their facebook page, Newcastle Basketball said: “Like the rest of the Newcastle and Hunter basketball community, we are disappointed the game was unable to proceed as scheduled but we understand why this decision was made.”