ANDREW MATHIESON THE ADVOCATE Settling a stadium deal overnight between the NBL and state government has ensured that Tasmania will enter the competition ahead of next year’s 2021-22 season.
It has also allayed fears the economic damage from the coronavirus pandemic that has stunted the state budget could have delayed the new team getting on the court for a number of years to come.
Tasmanian Premier Peter Gutwein has negotiated with NBL owner Larry Kestelman to provide $68.5 million to upgrade the Derwent Entertainment Centre in exchange for the NBL buying the venue and giving Tasmania the nod to play again for the first time since the Devils back in 1996.
Part of the government’s spend is to use $20 million to include a community four-court multisport facility.
The partnership is subject to a final agreement on terms being reached that is considered to be a mere formality.
“So, I spoke with Mr Kestelman last night and we are very close to that final agreement,” Gutwein said at a Thursday press conference.
“There are a couple of matters we need to hammer out, but we are both positive we will be able to take this forward subject to finalising those matters. That will also enable an NBL team to play in Tasmania not this season but in the next.”
Kestelman said the NBL was growing “excited about the opportunity” after sealing the deal nearly six months later than it was anticipated.
“Starting the work on the DEC as quickly as possible is critical if we are to meet our joint objective to have a team playing in Tasmania for the 2021-22 season,” he said.
“We will now wait for confirmation of final details of the agreement from the government as a matter of urgency, so we can deliver an NBL team for the people of Tasmania.”
The NBL previously said in December that for games to also play out of Launceston that state government and also council would have to tip in for refurbishments to bring the Silverdome up to NBL standards.
Kestelman had been concerned for weeks about getting the NBL’s 10th team off the ground with less than 18 months before a 2021 tipoff.
Basketball Tasmania chief executive Chris McCoy was also circumspect, but is more confident this week the DEC is “pretty well on track” to deliver its objectives.
“It will be tight in as far as there’s a bit of construction to occur at the DEC to have that ready for national league standards and most importantly to us is the participation courts in Hobart that we desperately need,” McCoy said on Wednesday.
“So we were still working towards that and hopefully that’ll come in fine.
“It was good to see the state government reconfirm that they’re dedicated to investing in the projects and the DEC development is certainly one of those.”