The need to have a state of the art indoor basketball arena comes at a time where the nation’s chances of participating in international sports competitions are consistently hampered by the lack of a proper edifice. Yes a basketball arena primarily serves the needs for basketball but beyond the sport, other disciplines could be catered for if the provision of the infrastructure is met.
That aside, international teams willing to move to Ghana to participate in friendly games and competitions have had their intentions thwarted by the subpar facilities in the country. This prevents teams from testing their strength against elite clubs and improving their skill level. But on a broader scope, missing out on an indoor basketball arena has major negative consequences.
Basketball in Ghana has seen a surge in popularity and patronage over the last two decades. The game has been played for many years but didn’t attract the kind of attention we have witnessed in these past years. Notable amongst the many competitions are the ones organized by leading sports events Management Company Rite Sports which include the annual Sprite Ball Championship for High Schools in Ghana, UPAC Basketball Championship for tertiary institutions, and the Ghana Basketball Awards.
Other interesting events in Ghana include the Accra Basketball League which has been played for several decades, the GSP Basketball League in Sunyani, Tema Basketball League, Takoradi Basketball League and the Kumasi Basketball League.
For starters, sports disciplines like netball, badminton, volley ball, table tennis and handball could stage international competitions that provide opportunities for Ghana’s national teams to play before home fans. The lack of familiarity with sports on a first hand basis is a major hindrance when addressed speeds up the popularity of the discipline.
For instance, the 1994 FIFA World Cup served as a major tool in popularizing football/soccer in the United States of America. Members of the US National team including Michael Bradley, Omar Gonzalez and Graham Zusi have pointed to the competition as the source of their motivation to pick up the sport. Hosting international club and national competitions is a direct way of inspiring the next generation of athletes in Ghana.
Hosting competitions and events give the nation’s youth multiple avenues to pursue professional careers in sports. A host of African players in the NBA got their break after participating in the league’s Basketball Without Borders program. For instance, Philadelphia Sixers Center Joel Embiid’s basketball journey started at the 2011 edition of the program. Embiid got the chance to immigrate to the US and earn a scholarship to Kansas University before getting drafted into the NBA in 2014.
Embiid signed a five year, $148 million contract three seasons later. In 2015, Pascal Siakam, another Cameroonian, played in the same competition and got his chance to move to the US and later the NBA. He recently signed a four year, $130 million contract with Toronto Raptors. With a modern arena, Ghana could host the Basketball Without Borders and provide the platform to potentially discover its version of Embiid and Siakam.
Beyond sports, the arena will serve as the best entertainment hub to host concerts and other related events. Presently, the Fantasy Dome and the Accra International Conference Center Dome are the best public facilities in Ghana mainly but neither offers the amenities of a modern facility that hosts concerts. Arenas all over the world like Staples Center in Los Angeles and Madison Square Garden are famous for hosting events sporting ones. Arsenal’s Emirates Stadium celebrated Rock Band Coldplay while West Ham’s London Stadium hosted Guns N’ Roses in 2018. Such avenues generate more money for the state in taxes, commercial activities related to events like paraphernalia sales. Indirect jobs are also created as a result.
The construction of the arena will create direct jobs for a host of Ghanaians and beyond construction, maintaining the structure and running the infrastructure will require people to see out such responsibilities. For instance, between 1000 and 1200 workers according to The New Times in Rwanda were reportedly involved in the construction of the 10,000 seater Kigali Arena earlier this year. The arena was completed in six months as workers worked in night and day shifts to complete the project ahead of the Africa Under 16 Girls Championship.
Constructing an indoor arena offers a big opportunity for basketball and other indoor sports disciplines to develop in the country. Venues used for competitions are far from good and that has turned a lot of fans away from moving to such venues to patronize games and other related activities. Venues like the Lebanon House Court in Tudu, Prisons Court in Cantonments and Kawukudi Court have very few seats available for fans to enjoy basketball games. Providing comfortable seats, with adequate security and better playing surface improves the overall quality of games.
In Rwanda, the 2500 seating capacity indoor arena at the Amahoro Stadium was a limitation in enticing companies to sponsor competitions held at the venue. One major reason behind companies’ hesitation was down to the small number of fans the arena could accommodate. However, with the completion of the 10,000 seater Kigali Arena goes a long way in addressing that challenge. The final two games between Patriots and REG in Rwanda’s Basketball League Finals series were completely sold out as fans filled the Kigali Arena; prior to the construction of the new arena, teams had to settle for fewer fans at games.
As Ghana marks the Year of Return, word is being spread out to diasporans to return to the nation where the first batch of slaves were shipped across the Atlantic Ocean to the US. Having a modern indoor arena is the perfect tool to promote sports tourism in Ghana by getting athletes and other individuals who move to the country for competitions to engage in tourism activities. Such activities include purchasing local artifacts and visiting tourist sites.
That is one of the main reasons behind the construction of the Kigali Arena in Rwanda with Rwanda Basketball Federation Vice President Pascale Mugwaneza stating, “Kigali Arena presents a big opportunity to attract international basketball tournaments, and that would position Rwanda as the leading sport tourism destination in the region” according to Rwandan newspaper New Times.
The most prominent club competition in basketball is the NBA and the USA based league generated $8 billion in 2018 and has extensive plans to invest more in Africa as it expands its reach. Gaining prominence on the continent is vital to the NBA as its relationship with China, its biggest market, has soured over political disagreements in recent times. As such, the league has partnered with basketball world governing body FIBA to create the Basketball Africa League. Teams from several countries including Ghana (Braves of Customs) are participating in the preliminary rounds of the tournament.
However, the latter stages of the competition are to be staged in Rwanda in March, 2020 mainly due to the presence of the world standard Kigali Arena. With partnerships struck with Pepsi, Nike and Disney (owns 80% of broadcast channel ESPN), the league has bigger prospects and having an indoor arena positions Ghana to benefit immensely.
It should be mentioned that the Bukom Boxing Arena (Trust Sports Emporium) has recently provided some excitement amongst the basketball fraternity with the marking of the floor by management to accommodate basketball events. The maiden Accra Mayor’s Cup, organized by the Accra Metropolitan Assembly in partnership with Rite Sports, was staged at the facility and that clearly gave patrons an idea of how a proper basketball arena would help promote the sport.
An 8,000 seater indoor state of the art multipurpose arena in Accra should meet the needs of issues identified above and promote basketball, sports and entertainment in Ghana.
Earlier this year, a team passionately dedicated to basketball infrastructure development led by successful Ghanaian Marketing Executive St. John Bozoma called on President Nana Akufo-Addo to discuss several matters including the construction of an Indoor Arena. Present at this meeting were John Manyo-Plange, Vice President & Head of Strategy for Basketball Africa League, Pops Mensah-Bonsu, former NBA Player and GM for Capital City Go-Go, Yaw Sakyi Afari, Head of Rite Sports and other personalities.
President Akufo-Addo assured the team of his commitment to sports infrastructure development and was going to discuss with the sector Minister on the construction of the indoor basketball arena. The Arena when built would serve as a landmark representation of Ghana’s connection with its Diaspora in this Year of Return.
By Yaw Adjei-Mintah
@YawMintYM on Twitter