In 2016, the ‘mpowerdome’ in Tuggeranong – the city’s largest indoor sports facility – closed its doors, leaving the region bereft of the much-loved facility.
This weekend (17 September) it will reopen with new operators with a big vision.
Now rebranded as The Dome – Fadden, the facility will host its grand reopening (although half the venue has been used for futsal for the last nine months or so).
Former two-time Olympian and Canberra Capitals player Fiona Hannan (née Robinson) and her husband Andrew took on the challenge to bring the facility back to life.
On Saturday (17 September), they will invite the community to see what’s changed since they’ve been away. Sports leagues (senior, junior and social) and court bookings will begin in the coming weeks, and they’ve diversified the offerings to children’s birthday parties on Saturday mornings – including a massive inflatable – and a play centre on some days during the week.
Basketball and volleyball will be on offer, and a parkour site may even be on the way while schools in the region will benefit from student programs.
There will also be a courtside cafe and pop-up bar on Monday evenings.
The Hannans have already plunged more than $1 million of investment into the venue for new floors and new hoops. They’re also looking to work with the Federal and Territory governments on further development opportunities.
The lack of parking has already been identified as an issue. Plans have been drawn up to expand, but they never came to fruition under the previous operators.
An interim solution has been to open up one of the unused tennis courts on the site as a car park which has added 20 or so spots and there’s a supermarket car park that can be accessed by a footbridge.
New security, lights and fences are also on the wishlist.
So far, Fiona says they’ve done it all themselves – with a couple of big working bee days.
The husband and wife duo currently run a not-for-profit basketball academy called Scorer’s Academy out of Brindabella Christian College and Evelyn Scott School. Most of those programs will relocate to The Dome once it is open.
It focuses on what Fiona described as the “kids who would otherwise fall through the gaps” – whether they are disadvantaged socio-economically, racially or in any other way.
Of the 1100 kids in the academy currently, there are children who are deaf, kids who have autism or Aspergers and those whose families have gone through breakdowns or other financial difficulties.
Those who need support can be put on a scholarship which means the academy pays for their programs, uniforms and club fees if they want to play at that level.
Basically, it’s about putting the community back into community sport – “one of the last places kids can learn to fail safely and get life skills out of it”.
And with a lifetime’s experience in sport at all levels, Fiona is passionate about doing things differently.
“I hold a real belief that parents are ruining kids’ sport. Other leagues have an enormous problem recruiting referees because parents abuse them,” she says.
“We have a zero-tolerance policy. At the beginning of every program, I make it clear that … parents, not the kids, will be banned – if they can’t follow the rules on the sidelines.”
Those ground rules mean Fiona now has more referees than she has games – which is a good place to be in.
She’s also proud of creating a safe space for kids that works for the modern family, too.
“Traditional sports, including basketball, are still dominated by the ‘old and balds’ who don’t understand that families have changed,” she says.
“Women work now and we can’t contribute and maintain the volunteering the way we always have for sports organisations when seasons go for six or nine months of the year.
“What they want is for someone else to manage the whole thing without them having to contribute much at all and for sport to be run in blocks follow school terms and holidays.”
The Dome – Fadden will host its grand reopening this Saturday (17 September) from 10 am to 2 pm. Expect a sausage sizzle, shooting competitions, an inflatable obstacle course, exhibition games and coffee, cake and snacks.