WE HAD a taste of what was possible with La Melo hype in our new indoor sports stadium.
Women's National Basketball League action on Friday night finally signals the next step in what this project is all about.
To host Bendigo Spirit and Canberra Capitals in an in-season game means Ballarat Sports and Events Centre, in particular its 3000-seat showcourt arena, is starting to deliver on its promise.
Spirit has long been a strong supporter for both growing the game and sporting pathways in this city. The sole regional WNBL club sees its responsibility to develop women's basketball in country Victoria. As such, Spirit has been bringing pre-season matches to Ballarat for years.
An in-season game shows this is serious business - just like hosting AFL games at Mars Stadium.
This columnist has long extolled the importance of bring elite sport to Ballarat to inspire youngsters and for reinforcing pathways for the region's talent, a factor with ripple effects across western Victoria.
This was put into play again on Spirit's roster featuring former Rush talent and Ballarat products Abbey Wehrung and Kasey Burton. Wehrung is a former Rush captain and joined Spirit this season after a five-year deal with Canberra Capitals while Burton has experience with WNBL club Melbourne Boomers.
Yes, BSEC is very much a huge community asset for quality facilities and to ease the court pressure across all indoor sport, not just basketball. Back in lobbying for an extra $10 million in federal funding, a key point in doubling the showcourt capacity was in boosting what events Ballarat could attract.
You only need to have visited Geelong or Bendigo's new 4000-seat arena to understand Ballarat was missing out big time both in sport (Bendigo even hosted a boxing pay-per-view in September) and for hosting major conferences.
While the Minerdome has long hosted NBL and WNBL pre-season matches, even Australian Opals exhibition basketball games, in-season play brings a whole new ball game. Unlike the Minerdome, BSEC is also constructed to national netball standards. The Courier understands stadium management has been in talks with Netball Victoria for how to best capitalise on this.
Our stands might not be quite big enough for NBL in-season crowds, although league chief-now-commissioner Jeremy Loeliger told Press Box earlier this year it was not entirely out of the question depending how new franchise South East Phoenix's rising works out.
We are still settling into BSEC, really, and it is fantastic to have supporters like Bendigo Spirit and NBL franchise Melbourne United put their faith in Ballarat early. Not to mention the string of bookings for state and national tournaments.
This give us and out elite partners a chance to start thinking bigger for what could be possible.
The city's NBL1 teams Miners and Rush, each featuring international talent, are moving into BSEC and will have their first chance to step out the showcourt to Ballarat crowds next season.
This is just the beginning.
YOU MIGHT ALSO LIKE
Have you signed up to The Courier's variety of news emails? You can register below and make sure you are up to date with everything that's happening in Ballarat.