BIG PLAYER Werribee has led a mass exodus from this weekend’s annual Basketball Ballarat junior tournament, citing inadequate facilities.
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The popular Queen’s Birthday weekend event, now in its 44th year, drew a record 271 teams last year. Only 225 committed to this year’s three-day event. Werribee pulled its 25 representative teams from returning.
Werribee Basketball Association competition participation manager Jason Kelly said the tournament’s attempts to cater for all teams in venues across the region had taken away from the long weekend tournament experience his club sought for junior families – a chance for juniors to watch and support each other in action in multi-court facilities.
To cater for tournament demand, organisers rely on five single court venues across town.
The event generated $1.5 million economics benefit for the city last year, according to Ballarat Regional Tourism, with a predicted a drop to $1.25 million this year.
Stage one completion of Ballarat Sports and Events Centre will add four courts for play, and more modern facilities. Ballarat Basketball continues to push for federal funding for a fully-developed stadium to add six courts and increase potential in hosting a variety of major events.
Sovereign Hill chief executive officer Jeremy Johnson there was a noticeable increase in “tall, young tracksuited people” and their families on Main Street for Queen’s Birthday weekend.
“This is generally a quieter time of year for us, but this tournament is great support with a lot of families visiting from across the state with time between games to fill,” Mr Johnson said.
Red Lion director and Australian Hotels Association vice president David Canny said people needed a reason to travel. A key reason was first-class facilities.
“The danger is we will lost these events overtime. We can’t take them for granted,” Mr Canny said. “It’s not just about basketball, the nature of the event is irrelevant, it’s about functional space.”
Basketball Ballarat has been vocal the past three years on its struggle to be competitive with modern venues across regional Australia.
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