The return of junior domestic basketball is only weeks away and major sporting events could return to Bendigo Stadium early in the new year.
That's part of the plan Bendigo Stadium Limited chief executive officer Nathan O'Neill has in mind as the region's biggest sports and entertainment venue works its way out of a 2020 ruined by the COVID-19 pandemic.
"It's been a challenging year for all businesses and we're not exempt from that, but I don't think we'd change anything in terms of how we've managed it,'' O'Neill said.
"Looking back on how we've handled it has been fantastic to this date, but there's still a long way to go.
"You don't know how you're going to handle a moment until you're in it. We'll continue to stay positive and remain optimistic with the community that we will be back bigger and better."
The BLS bistro and sports bar reopened recently with patron restrictions, while it was announced last week that Guy Sebastian will appear at the stadium as part of his national tour in November next year.
BSL hopes to release other big events soon, including the possible return of a major boxing event.
"For 2021, about 70 per cent of our events calendar is filled, but we just have to play it by ear to see what events we can have, particularly in the first few months of the year,'' O'Neill said.
"The team has done an exceptional job to keep planning and promoters have continued to come to us to look at potential dates for 2021. It's been really positive.
"We're negotiating with a boxing promoter for an event in the first third of 2021.
"Obviously, government restrictions in terms of how many people can attend the event will play a major role.
"Things are still looking positive around hosting that event around a February-March date."
Last year's Jeff Horn-Michael Zerafa Battle of Bendigo boxing event attracted a bumper crowd, with 72 per cent of attendees travelling from Melbourne.
Zerafa has been linked to a return to Bendigo Stadium, with Anthony Mundine his potential opponent.
Basketball is BSL's bread and butter.
From a domestic point of view, more than 460 teams normally participate in junior and senior basketball on a weekly basis.
The absence of local basketball has been a body blow to BSL, but there is light at the end of the tunnel.
"Alongside the Bendigo Basketball Association, we're looking at a November starting date for junior basketball,'' O'Neill said.
"There's no starting date for senior basketball, but it's hard to see senior basketball returning in 2020."
The return of major basketball events could also be just around the corner, COVID-19 restrictions pending.
January would be a bumper month for hoops, with the annual Bendigo Junior Classic and a new 3-on-3 tournament pencilled in.
"The Junior Classic is a Bendigo Basketball Association event and they're still planning to run that event here depending on government restrictions,'' O'Neill said.
"We still don't know what those restrictions will look like for January, but at this stage the plan is for the tournament to go ahead.
"In mid-January we have a 3-on-3 tournament for junior and senior players that will be played on the inside courts and the outside courts.
"We've had local 3-on-3 events before, but this one is an event where a promoter has booked Bendigo Stadium. If it goes ahead, teams in the tournament earn FIBA points, so it should be a very good standard."
There'll be no WNBL games in Bendigo this season, with the entire season to be played out of a "bubble" in north Queensland through November and December.
"It's disappointing for the club's members and fans that we won't have games in Bendigo this season,'' O'Neill said.
"Under the current circumstances we're lucky that we're having a season."
The Bendigo Braves men's and women's squads will return to action in 2021, with O'Neill confirming NBL1 was planning towards an April starting date.
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