Time to upgrade our stadium

By Shepparton News

In just a few months, Shepparton will play host to some of the country’s most talented young basketballers.

There is no doubt that those involved in organising the under-14 girls’ Australian club championships will ensure it is an overwhelming success.

As News sports journalist Tyler Maher has written about previously, the Greater Shepparton Basketball Association is obviously doing something right if it continues to successfully bid to have such events held here.

Greater Shepparton City Council has also played its part.

It will be a great thing when the championships come to Shepparton — the first time the city has hosted a national basketball championships since 2000.

Predictions suggest more than 1000 people will visit for the week-long event, bringing more than $1million into the local economy.

But it is a shame that the facilities used to showcase the talents of the next Lauren Jackson or Penny Taylor will be below the high standards of many other stadiums used to host such events around the country.

As a basketball player, I was average at best. As a basketball referee, I was much better. Having attended several national championships around the country as a referee, I’ve seen many stadiums in a mix of metropolitan and regional areas.

My first was in South Australia, at Gawler, about 40km north of Adelaide, and I was very impressed with the facilities.

Refereeing also took me to places like Ulverstone in Tasmania, Newcastle, and Perth — with the venues chosen for those national events never failing to deliver.

Shepparton Sports Stadium needs work.

It’s outdated, needs funding for upgrades, and probably needs some more courts.

There’s been many calls during the years for this to happen. As Tyler Maher rightly pointed out in the pages of The News this week, with Shepparton’s own team the Gators looking to go deep into the Big V finals this month, it is unfortunate the current capacity of the stadium does not cater for bumper crowds.

A new show court with seating for 1500-2000 people would not only do that, but keep the door open for future national championship events, and, who knows, maybe even NBL or WNBL pre-season or regular season matches.

The phrase ‘‘if you build it, they will come’’ is oft overused but I feel it’s absolutely appropriate here.

As a comparison, Hobart’s team in the second-tier national competition, the South East Australian Basketball League, is on the verge of attracting 3500 fans to a finals match in that city this week.

In recent years, the club moved out of a stadium it shared with netball clubs, to a venue where it can cater for such crowds as the one that will flock to the game on Friday night.

Sure, with a population of more than 200000, Hobart is on a different scale to Shepparton, but with better facilities and capacity at our stadium, the possibilities for big-time basketball here are significant.

But it’s much more than that. More capacity means more basketballs being bounced — more courts, more teams, more players, more kids playing the game in Shepparton who could become the next Maddie Garrick.

There are good people working hard for the sake of basketball in Shepparton, plenty of youngsters are playing, and we continue to attract high-quality events to the city. Now, the stadium itself just needs some love.

Cameron Whiteley is editor at The News.