SBL: ode to suburban stadiums as Joondalup Wolves farewell Joondalup Basketball Stadium

Joondalup Basketball Stadium on game night. Picture: Michael Farnell, sportsimagery.com.au
Joondalup Basketball Stadium on game night. Picture: Michael Farnell, sportsimagery.com.au

MORE: JBS administrators Van and Mary Kailis retire

A SUBURBAN basketball stadium may become run-down and outdated but it will retain a charm that can’t be replicated outside its neighbourhood.

It will have its quirks, whether it’s the way the ball bounces on ageing floor- boards or how a shot ricochets when it hits the rim.

And many of the senior players and spectators who tread the courts have been doing so since they were children.

They’ve grown accustomed to the fading posters on the walls and the aroma of the kiosk on game night.

Joondalup Basketball Stadium (JBS) is one such piece of local history.

It’s built more than three decades of nostalgia since its opening in 1982.

But sentimentality eventually has to submit to reality when it comes to worn sporting centres.

This weekend is the Joondalup Wolves’ last regular season game at the stadium before the club and the Wanneroo Basketball Association move to slick new digs at Arena Joondalup for the 2018 season.

The Wolves will play finals games at the JBS but Saturday’s clash against the South West Slammers is the venue’s official farewell.

The new stadium is taking shape.

Legendary Wolves US import Vince Kelley, who was player-coach of the 1993 championship team, knows the venue as well as anyone.

He starred inside the paint during basketball’s halcyon days of the early ’90s when the team was known as the Wanneroo Wolves.

“Joondalup stadium has a lot of great memories, I know every piece of wood on that court,” he said.

“I knew the sweet spots, which side I shot better from, which angle and everything else. I loved that stadium… that was one of the best stadiums to play in.”

The California-born Perth resident now has connections to the Willetton Tigers through his daughter Desiree, who plays on the women’s team.

But the former NBL player holds a deep appreciation for his time in Joondalup, saying everyone felt a part of the team, from the kids wiping the floors to the kiosk operators.

“It was a great family atmosphere, from the top down… they made me feel at home coming from the US,” he said.

Kelley recalled packed houses most weekends through that golden period.

“There was no shopping centre to keep people busy on the weekends, so I think the majority of people came and supported their local teams,” he said.

Long-time fans will remember the Wolves finishing seventh in 1993, but blitzing the finals to claim a memorable title.

Kelley reflected on that year as a stadium highlight, but also looked back on a pre-season game when a Murray Arnold-coached Perth Wildcats team, featuring the likes of James Crawford, came to visit.

While the Wolves lost in a close battle, they earned respect through the intensity of the clash.

Kelley hit a staggering 54 points in peak condition after a stint playing in Portugal.

“We gave them just as much as they gave us,” he said.

The Wolves have landed five women’s and four men’s pennants while at the stadium and could add another two this year.

Former administrators Van and Mary Kailis spent the majority of their days at the stadium from 1986 to 2015.

Upon retirement just under two years ago, Mr Kailis said his greatest memory was when the association won best junior club for five years straight.

In 2005, Mrs Kailis was named the best basketball administrator in the country by Basketball Australia.

Chief executive Cameron Britt explained the sense of community he had felt since arriving at the club at the end of 2015.

“A really nice cultural aspect of our club is that our original young basketballers now have their children, and in some cases, their grandchildren, playing with the association at the stadium,” he said.

“A rich tapestry of Wanneroo basketball history and heritage exists within the walls of 380 Joondalup Drive, to be transferred to our new facility.”

The City of Joondalup is to clear the land in conjunction with LandCorp.

The facilities at Arena Joondalup are taking shape with showcourt seating, that spells out WOLVES, now installed.