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FIBA Oceania - Top concern is Ada Gym
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FIBA Oceania secretary general Steve Smith was recently in the CNMI to check on the progress made in the preparations for the 2009 FIBA Oceania Basketball Tournament.
Smith planed in Tuesday morning and left Wednesday afternoon during a hectic two-day visit that saw him meet with officials of the Basketball Association of the Northern Mariana Islands, Division of Sports and Recreation, and even Gov. Benigno R. Fitial.
He said while FIBA Oceania is looking forward to Saipan's hosting of the regional competition, he is a bit concerned with the state of one of the two venues for the tournament-the Gilbert C. Ada Gymnasium.
Built in 1990 in time for the revival of the Micronesian Games, the Oleai Sports Complex facility has seen better days and during the past years has been plagued with leaks in the roof, poor ventilation, and the occasional flood during heavy downpour.
“The thing that's causing the most concern is the renovation of the Ada Gym. As you know we've got 14 visiting teams, plus the two teams from the Northern Marianas, so all in all 16 teams. We need to use two venues and this will be the first time that teams from New Zealand, Australia, Fiji and Tahiti have been to Saipan. We'd like to make sure they will have a very good impression,” said Smith in an interview with the Saipan Tribune.
He said on top of the to-do list at the Ada Gym are functioning shower rooms and toilets, air-conditioning, lights, and repairs on the rubberized floor.
Smith said FIBA Oceania has also donated two new backboards and a couple of new shot clocks that will be used for the tournament.
“Mike's (BANMI secretary general Michael White) has been asking me for years and years and years to bring an international basketball event to Saipan and we've finally done it now and we want to make sure that it's a successful event that makes a good impression of Saipan. So the players will go home and tell their friends about it and they may want to come back,” he said.
Aside from the Ada Gym, tournament organizers will also utilize the more modern Marianas High School Gymnasium.
Smith also pointed out that improvements on the Ada Gym will not only be for the players seeing action in the 2009 Oceania Basketball Tournament, but in the long run will benefit the local sports community.
“Not only players coming here will benefit on what we're going to do at Ada Gym but everyone who loves basketball or anyone who loves sports here. The work we're asking the government to do at the Ada Gym is going to be a long lasting benefit to the people of Saipan, long after these basketball players have left. The basketball players will be here for one week, the people who play basketball, play volleyball, badminton, weightlifting, all the other things that's being done at the Ada Gym, they will all benefit from renovated change rooms, improved lighting, and some new ventilation in the gym,” he said.
Smith said FIBA Oceania is not only looking after elite basketball players but also the welfare of people in the Pacific, where diabetes, heart disease, and obesity have long been serious health issues.
“We want to make sports an attractive thing for people to do, make it part of their lifestyle. If they come to a facility which is not really attractive, it's not a good way for them to take part in it. We're hoping this work will give the gym a fresh new look and seeing these exciting athletes playing will get them jumping in their seats and want to take part in sports after the tournament is over,” he said.
The 2009 FIBA Oceania Basketball Tournament will run from June 20 to 28 and feature the men's and women's teams of Australia, New Zealand, New Caledonia, Palau, Guam, Fiji, Tahiti, and host CNMI.
It will be the biggest ever regional basketball competition that the CNMI will be hosting. The last time the CNMI hosted a regional basketball tournament was in 2006 during the Micronesian Games.
The tournament will have two draws for the men's and women's competition. In the men's draw, the CNMI was placed in Pool B, along with Australia, Guam, and New Caledonia. Pool A will consist of Fiji, Tahiti, Palau, and New Zealand.
In the women's draw, the CNMI was placed in Pool A, along with Fiji, Guam, and New Zealand. Pool B will consist of Tahiti, New Caledonia, Palau, and Australia.