Coronavirus in Ballarat: Basketball sets lead in rescuing major event

IN RECOVERING the hosting rights for major national championships, Basketball Ballarat chief Peter Eddy urges community groups to think big and start planning now.

Mr Eddy said organisations needed to look to what was possible for late 2021 and 2022 in a bid to best help the region recover from the coronavirus pandemic culturally and economically.

This is a move backed by Sovereign Hill chief Sara Quon who said community organisations needed to work together to build back back from crippling times in the pandemic.

Basketball Ballarat has been able to work with Basketball Australia to secure the under-18 men and women's championships to be run simultaneously with junior wheelchair championships Kevin Coombs Cup at Ballarat Sports and Events Centre for April 2022. The eight-day tournament had twice been axed from Ballarat this year due to COVID-19 restrictions.

"The challenge right now is to get our community groups and sports groups to plan for the future," Mr Eddy said. "Everyone is feeling flat and deflated by cancellations but if we wait until next year to look for events, it could be 2023-24 before we host events."

Werribee is scheduled to host both championships next year but the 2022 championships had not been put out to tender.

Mr Eddy said it was a major confidence boost for the community in bringing back major events that otherwise would have been lost, including the ripple effects on the region's tourism, hospitality and retail sectors.

Conservative modelling from Basketball Ballarat and the City of Ballarat shows such championships generate $1.26 million for the region with 8,530 bed nights. Players and support crews travel from every state and territory in Australia and the tournament has interest from United States college scouts.

Ms Quon said such major events had a large flow-on effect, not only for Sovereign Hill but in the wider region.

The 2022 championships are set to coincide with the Easter long weekend and school holidays for most states, encouraging a chance for families to linger.

"For us, it's about rebuilding confidence in our Victorian and international audiences to start to travel in 2021 and 2022 is critical. Events like this show how tourism and sport can really collaborate," Ms Quon said. "It's a sign of optimism to secure an event of this scale and calibre in what has been a tough year."

Ms Quon said the lead-up time to the tournament helped with long-term planning for Sovereign Hill to try and make the most of families' extended stays. She said it was also positive news for Sovereign Hill staff and supporters in looking ahead.

"Everyone in our industry is looking for signals of hope and those things that help us to look at a time beyond the immediate challenges we're all facing," Ms Quon said.

"For our staff, for our supporters, to be able to think about some positive events that help us to imagine what life will return to, what business will return to after COVID. I think that really triggers for us that ability to think longer term and to balance the day-to-day we have at the moment with what could be on the horizon."

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