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Wolves counting down until first game in Arena
TWELVE years ago, Worcester Wolves were being watched by a handful of spectators and players stacked chairs after matches.
Now, in just a few months, the British Basketball League team will walk out in the new £15million 2,000-capacity Worcester Arena.
Over the past decade, Wolves have enjoyed a quite remarkable rise to prominence from the lower levels of the national league to one of the best sides in the country.
But this season, which starts with the visit of Durham Wildcats on Saturday (7pm), will be the most significant yet in the club’s history as they prepare to make the short move from the University of Worcester to their state-of-the-art home on Hylton Road .
Progress has been rapid at the site and, although a date for the first match has not been set, Wolves are hoping to take up residency by February.
“We’re still very much on track,” said Mick Donovan, Wolves co-founder and head of institute of sport and exercise science at the university.
“We’ve been down there a few times in the last couple of weeks and the interior is beginning to look like an indoor arena.
“It will be one of the nicest facilities in the country for basketball. We’re hoping it’s going to be finished by December but then by the time we’ve done all the checks and the tweaks it will be January so we are hoping for the beginning of February.
“If it was ready before, that would be great. As soon as it’s passed fit we’ll stick a basketball match in it.”
He added: “It’s quite sad really because we’ve been at University since 2000 and it will probably be our last game there in January.
“For the first game we ever played we were worried if anyone would come to watch and we were standing outside counting them in and had to put carpets out on the floor.
“In those days I coached the team with Rick Solvason and we used to make the players put the chairs away after the game.
“If they didn’t put the chairs away they couldn’t play so we’ve come quite a long way. It’s phenomenal really.
“We’ve had a lot of good volunteers and without them we wouldn’t have done it.”
As well as basketball, the arena will be a training centre for Great Britain’s wheelchair basketball team and a major venue for Badminton England.
According to Donovan, it could also host anything from super league netball, boxing and darts to conferences and concerts.
“Loads of people are really excited about it,” he said. “One thing I find a bit weird is when people say, ‘why have we done this and why aren’t we doing that,’ but if we didn’t build it no-one would have it and yet everyone is going to benefit from it.
“It’s going to be there forever so people are going to get a lot out of it.”
The arena’s striking gold cladding, similar to that of the Hive, has also raised a few eyebrows but Donovan is not too concerned.
“Somebody rang me up and asked if they had a few bits left over from the Hive,” he joked. “But if you think of trophies and sport, I think gold’s quite appropriate.
“I think a big gold arena looks absolutely fantastic. It will be a trophy.”