Stadium slam dunk

BASKETBALL Ballarat is celebrating a huge victory with confirmation of $10 million in federal funding to complete the full Ballarat Sports and Events Centre vision.

Approval, on late Monday, comes after the project was knocked back three times under the now-defunct National Stronger Regions Fund and almost 11 years of lobbying governments for improved facilities.

Story by Melanie Whelan at The Courier

The boost will deliver a doubled capacity 3000-seat show court arena, add two extra courts in redevelopment works, and transform BSEC to a stadium capable of hosting national and international sporting events and major sports tournaments.

Importantly, the stadium allows Ballarat a greater chance to compete with neighbouring rivals for such events with existing facilities deemed inadequate.

Full redevelopment will also allow for greater community flexibility in hosting programs like University of the Third Age and sporting administrative hubs.

Stage one works, under a combined $14 million state and council funding, are about to go to tender with construction expected to start in September.

Basketball Ballarat chief Peter Eddy said there was an outpouring of joy and relief for all those involved in the city’s indoor sports alliance and pathway programs stemming from across western Victoria.

Mr Eddy thanked Ballarat patron senator Jane Hume, who announced the funding, for her active lobbying for the project under the new Building Better Regions Fund and the broader bi-partisan support from all levels of government, particularly City of Ballarat and Central Highlands Council.

City of Ballarat’s project team played a key role working with Basketball Ballarat and the indoor sports group alliance each step of funding application processes.

Mr Eddy said Regional Development Victoria had also been a significant support in guiding through development of the vision and the funding processes.

He also paid tribute to The Courier editorial team for keeping the economic, social, community and sporting need at the forefront of the public consciousness for such a sustained period of time.

“It’s times like these that proves the value of regional news services that care about their community,” Mr Eddy said.

The BSEC will bookend the newly completed outdoor Mars Stadium, which is set to host the first AFL premiership season match in three weeks’ time.

Senator Hume posted her congratulations on Facebook, saying patience and dedication to the project was nothing short of exceptional.

“I can’t wait to watch this project come to life and see the benefits it brings to Ballarat, the region and our state,” Senator Hume said.

Ballarat mayor Samantha McIntosh said the city was well on its way to becoming a regional hub for major entertainment, recreation and sporting events.