23 May 2023

At what point do we turn kids away from sport in Canberra through lack of facilities?

| Tim Gavel
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Belconnen Basketball Stadium

Belconnen Basketball Stadium is at capacity on weekends, with games from 8 am to 10 pm. Photo: Jennifer Andrew.

It’s already happening in sports such as basketball.

On any given winter weekend, Canberra’s sporting fields are packed to overflowing with thousands of kids playing sport.

In many ways, it makes you proud to be a Canberran because we live in a community that encourages and facilitates grassroots sport.

But that utopian vision masks a significant problem with our sporting facilities.

What we see is a failure to keep pace with a growing population.

In basketball, it is especially so with many clubs now turning players away because the facilities are fully stretched.

READ ALSO Former star player Erin Osborne takes over as ACT Meteors head coach

Basketball ACT has renewed its campaign for an ACT Government focus on facilities for community-level sport.

This is not connected with the debate about a new stadium for the Raiders and the Brumbies in Civic or Bruce.

No, this is far more serious. This is about the health and well-being of our children.

As a community, we should at the very least provide a facility, whether it is a gym for basketball and futsal, or a field on which to play football or cricket, or whatever is required for a variety of sports.

Basketball ACT CEO Nicole Bowles faces a juggling act every weekend in winter to ensure there are facilities for the over 7000 players involved in the sport every week.

Nicole Bowles. Photo: Basketball ACT.

Nicole Bowles: “We are at capacity. We are in dire need of facilities.” Photo: Basketball ACT.

Courts across Canberra are bursting to overflowing from 8 am to 10 pm on the weekends.

“We are at capacity. We are in dire need of facilities,” said Nicole.

“We’ve grown by 50 per cent in the past four years. We have a shovel-ready project set to go. ”

That shovel-ready project is adjacent to the existing facility at Belconnen.

“We’ve done a feasibility study, we’ve done the architecture, we have the land, and if it goes ahead, it will double the number of courts from four to eight.”

Land next door to the Belconnen Basketball Stadium available for court development. Photo: Jennifer Andrew.

Part of the land next door to the Belconnen Basketball Stadium is suitable for building more courts. Photo: Jennifer Andrew.

Securing support from the ACT Government hasn’t been as easy.

Basketball ACT – which owns the land for new facilities – is seeking a $34 million investment in the project from the ACT Government.

And with the June budget around the corner, there is no time like the present to raise awareness of the facilities’ plight.

Nicole Bowles said she had been encouraged by recent developments within the ACT Government, which she says has taken some key steps in the past three months on a facilities plan.

Once word gets out that a sports facilities plan is in the wind, the government will be inundated with many sporting groups facing the same challenges as basketball.

Nicole and her colleagues will no doubt be hoping the ACT Government is listening to their plight.

Being forced to turn players away, or providing what amounts to band-aid solutions, such as school halls, shouldn’t be an option in the ACT.

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Pipe down and ride your tram

Macquariephil1:44 pm 24 May 23

Similar things could be said about football (soccer) facilities.. As a parent paying a fortune to take my boys through the kids and youth ranks, the facilities are appalling. Rank, damp dingy change rooms. Fields built on swampy ground and poorly maintained. When lit for winter training, the lighting Is mostly too dim.

Grounds are are shared with summer sports and closed for two weeks in pre season for maintenance, so they are not available for pre season training and development.

Kids deserve better.

Tralee, googong… developers all had to build sporting facilities but in the ACT nothing is required. I am involved in kids athletics and suggested a kid in the Molonglo valley run around the nearest football field… but other than the fenced off one at Charles Weston school there is not a single oval in the valley. How can they build four suburbs without one oval??? Ovals mean less development and less money.

Anthony Li Chiang11:58 am 24 May 23

While none of my kids play basketball etc, Canberra has been sorely neglected by the lack of ACT and Fed. Government investment in sports facilities across the region.

I would love to see the ACT and Federal Governments invest in something similar to the Gold Coast Sport and Leisure Centre which could house basketball, netball, futsal and a multitude of other indoor sports. In turn, it could be used to hold National competitions for the above sports which would then benefit the whole Canberra region with people visiting.

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