Basketballers set for fight
Basketball leaders are prepared to take legal action in efforts to force a rethink over a proposed site of a new multimillion-dollar Wimmera Sports Stadium.
Horsham Amateur Basketball Association board member Gareth Hiscock said the outcome of a meeting with Horsham Rural City Council on Monday would determine a course of action.
Mr Hiscock said for his association to support plans presented in a business case and concept design report would be madness and akin to pushing a self-destruct button.
“Why would we support the project as it stands when we clearly and have long identified from our perspective serious issues based on cost, governance and autonomy? What we see presented before us now has failed on all three,” he said.
“We’ve always supported the concept of building a new indoor stadium in Horsham but we simply won’t be able to exist based on what’s been presented. It’s sad that we now have to spend a lot of time lobbying government ministers and money to initiate legal proceedings against our own council.”
Mr Hiscock said the association’s primary concern was that the new stadium, designed for multi-purpose sporting use, would happen at the cost of Horsham Basketball Stadium, on Crown Land but leased by the association.
“Building the new stadium on top of an asset we already have, an asset that works well and allows us to provide our sport to people at a cost-effective manner, is just a dumb idea,” he said.
“It would be just as dumb as building it in the centre of Horsham City Oval. It’s just crazy.”
Mr Hiscock said the association relied heavily on – and through enormous financial and volunteer efforts since 1974, had worked hard at – establishing a working model for basketball development at the stadium.
“It is the envy of basketball associations statewide,” he said.
“Other associations have warned us about dangers of operating within a council-run stadium. A common theme has been that they have either walked away or wished they could.”
Mr Hiscock said an intrinsic relationship between the association and participants with Horsham Basketball Stadium, a relationship that had fostered significant success, participation levels and player pathways to national and international levels, demanded autonomous control of the centre.
“We, like anyone, might ask to use a new multi-purpose indoor stadium for major tournaments and events, but we need to keep our existing stadium,” he said.
“A new stadium also has to be in the right place, based on a fair and equitable environment, where the community can use it the most and, from our position, where it doesn’t have a detrimental impact on our ability to operate.
“We are probably the largest and most successful sporting organisation in the Wimmera but would effectively be broke in a year if forced to be among multiple users in the new centre.”
‘Happy with our lot’
Mr Hiscock said he feared the basketball association would be labeled ‘the bad guys’ in coming out strongly against the plans.
“The truth is, we’re one of the few sporting organisations that is happy with our lot and we didn’t initiate anything,” he said.
“What we do know is that a lot of people have worked very hard to get us where we are now.
“We’ve got to the point where we’re almost getting bullied to comply while our position and concerns have been ignored.”
Mr Hiscock said he agreed with association president Owen Hughan that the most appropriate location for a new stadium was at or near Horsham College in the city’s west.
“We’re skeptical about the whole process involving a project control group in selecting a site,” he said.
“The school is an obvious site considering the potential for use, but from discussions we’ve had with the school the PCG has never met with the principal or school council president to discuss the proposal.”
Mr Hiscock said any legal action the association took would be based on equity the organisation had generated through long-term loans and volunteer labour, encouraged by the council, to develop Horsham Basketball Stadium.
“If the project is given the green light as proposed, we’re going to be compelled to take legal action,” he said.
“We’re angry and disappointed, but also defiant.
“We’re not prepared to sacrifice all the work, effort and progress we’ve made since 1974 to simply roll over and accept a project that is far from acceptable on so many levels.”