Sport

AIS invests $750,000 in new basketball court as Opals launch Rio Olympic campaign

They're the well-worn floorboards that have been a springboard for NBA champions, world beaters, Olympians and some of the biggest sports stars in Australia for almost 30 years.

But while the AIS is ripping up decades of history and memories, officials want to make sure a $750,000 training hall renovation lays the foundation for more basketball and netball success.

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How you replace the basketball and netball court at the AIS

This timelapse shows the removal of the old gymnasium floor, and the installation of the new surface. Video supplied by the Australian Institute of Sport.

The Australian Opals will take their first steps towards the Rio Olympic Games when they test out the new surface at a training camp this week.

It's the same building that has launched the careers of Patrick Mills, Andrew Bogut, Matthew Dellavedova, Luc Longley, Lauren Jackson and Penny Taylor.

But the foundation – the floorboards – have been ripped up and replaced for the first time in AIS history.

The training hall has been a factory for producing basketball stars and propelling them to international stardom, and foundation coach Patrick Hunt says a revamp is the start of a new era.

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"Every Australian Olympic basketball team since 1984 has practised on that training hall floor in that time," Hunt said.

"There was Luc Longley in the 80s, all of the current players in the NBA, all of the current players in the WNBA, they all came through here.

"It's hard to say who the best was, they all brought different things. But all of them were curious about how to become a good player and that foundation started at the training hall and the AIS."

The AIS was accused of being a "tumbleweed town" last month because of the change in its role under the Winning Edge program.

But the new basketball facility – to go along with a new FIFA-quality soccer field – is a boost for women's sport and proves the institute is willing to invest in giving athletes the best possible resources.

The Opals and Australian rowers will meet for a Road to Rio Aspire session on Tuesday, with athletes and officials to be briefed on the latest anti-doping, social media, hygiene, team agreement and venue updates.

They will also be fitted for uniforms and be addressed by Chef de Mission Kitty Chiller and five-time Olympian Natalie Cook.

The AIS Training Hall has a long honour roll of Australia's greatest basketballers.T

Officials decided it was time for a revamp more than 30 years after the training hall became the base for Australia's top juniors and home away from home for the national netball side.

 

That means lifting up the 3835 square metres of floorboards across five courts, recycling them and bringing in a US Maple surface lighter in colour to give the venue a facelift.

"It's hard to nail down the best moment or the player who permeates the floor and created the tradition and aura of the training hall ... it's going to continue on with the new floor," Hunt said.

"Adrian Hurley and I were the first two coaches here in 1981. When we had input into the design of the hall, we wanted a floor of the highest quality because the floor is the building.

"So it's pleasing to know it's lasted 30 years with all of those players who have come through. The floor, if it was alive, it could share all of the stories. There's still a recognition around the world that the AIS Basketball Australia centre of excellence program has withstood the test of time."

The new floor is expected to be finished by the end of March, with an Australian Opals camp to test the surface for the first time in the build-up to the Rio Olympic Games.

Jackson is fighting to be fit for her fifth Olympics and it is expected the Canberra Capitals and Basketball Australia will release a statement on her future this week.

"I still remember starting at the AIS as a 16-year-old," Jackson said.

"We got up to a lot of trouble when we were teenagers, Kristen Veal and I were always up to something. The court holds a lot of great memories for me."

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