HAMISH GEALE THE ADVOCATE The Derwent Entertainment Centre upgrade has taken all the headlines as Tasmania prepares for re-entry to the NBL, but league owner Larry Kestelman is equally keen to get Launceston’s Silverdome complex up to standard.
Tasmania was confirmed as the NBL’s 10th team on Thursday, nearly one year since Kestelman first flagged the state’s likely admission into the competition.
Part of the NBL’s deal with the state government is a $68.5 million refurbishment of the DEC, which will act as the team’s home base upon entry in the 2012-22 season.
Kestelman reiterated a desire for the team to play home games at a revamped Silverdome from day one.
“We would love to see investment in the Silverdome and see what we can do to upgrade that venue,” the 53-year-old said.
“We want to come and play games in Launceston – that’s something that we’re committed to and we really want to do.
“In the short term it may need either an upgrade or at least some equipment brought in to stage a couple of games there, so we’ll engage with the government and see what can be done but our absolute wish is to see games played in Launceston.”
The Tasmanian NBL deal would have been signed off months ago but for the coronavirus pandemic that saw Kestelman’s dealings with the state government put on hold.
Despite the delay, the founder of internet service provider Dodo said he was never worried about the deal falling through.
“We were always confident,” Kestelman said.
“No-one knew how quickly Tasmania could get the virus under control and I think the government’s done a fantastic job at kerbing it and as soon as that came a little bit less of an issue we were able to get the conversations back on track.
“It was all pretty much done bar some documentation pre-COVID and then of course when COVID hit priorities had to change for everyone – ourselves and the government – so we paused it for a couple of months while we all dealt with our own challenges and I’m glad we could get there after things settled down.
“We’re extraordinarily excited and now it’s just down to a lot of hard work and start building the club, renovating the DEC – there’s a lot to do.”
The new team is unnamed as yet, but is unlikely to remain so for long with the NBL to launch a naming competition over social media.
Premier Peter Gutwein said the name would need to represent the whole state.
“From a state government point of view the team has to have either Tasmania or Tasmanian in it,” he said.
“And importantly I would hope that when the competition is launched in coming days for the name, people will give consideration to exactly how best to name up our step back onto the national stage because I think it’s going to be very exciting.”