Bas­ket­ballers set for fight

The Weekly Advertiser Horsham - - News - BY DEAN LAW­SON

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.”

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