EXCLUSIVE: Sevenoaks Suns are on the move to Olympic site in Swanley

Clubs plans to build community arena with 500 seat SHow Court are underway

WBBL National Champions and Playoff winners, Sevenoaks Suns Basketball Club, are planning to build an all purpose community Arena at The Olympic site in Swanley. The move would enable the club to host International Basketball competitions and National team training camps whilst also making it available for community use, especially schools in the Swanley area and sports clubs.

The move away from The Sennocke Centre at Sevenoaks School is due to no sufficient seating, which is needed to meet both the upcoming changes to the Women’s British Basketball League (WBBL) arena requirements, and the requirements to compete in top European club competitions. Last year, after winning the WBBL Playoff finals at The O2 Arena in London and subsequently qualifying for European competition, the club had to decline the offer to compete in Europe, partly due to a lack of suitable facilities for home games.

The proposed Arena would include at least two full-size basketball halls, a ‘Show Court’ with space to accommodate up to 500 spectators and the second, a training hall, which would also have courts meeting the requirements for National League play, while including specialised equipment for skill development plus fitness and physiotherapy facilities.

How the proposed training hall might look

In addition, the planned Arena would have a multi-sports hall which could have permanent markings for netball, badminton, volleyball and other sports. The Suns have already been in communication with numerous Swanley sports clubs and have received an enthusiastic response from this community.

The club are engaged in active discussions with Swanley Town Council regarding the project.  Suns’ Board Member and Arena Project Director, Phil Webb, said: “We are thrilled to be coming to Swanley and deeply appreciate the outstanding and proactive engagement of the Council. It’s great to see a public authority so committed to developing facilities for their community.”

Steve Nash, the CEO at Swanley Town Council said: “It’s a fantastic proposal and one that we are backing. The facility will become an important place in the community”.

Webb added: “We have spoken to clubs ranging from gymnastics to boxing and rugby to athletics. Everybody is very excited about what this project can bring to the Swanley community. The Arena itself will be a great asset for everybody. And, basing one of Britain’s top professional sports teams here will be an important step in building Swanley as a centre of sporting excellence.”

Community spirit
The Suns pride themselves on being a community-based club and they plan for the Arena to support the Swanley community in a number of ways. During normal school hours, the Arena facilities would be available for use by local schools. In after-school hours, the Suns hope to arrange with the Council for the multi-sports hall, and designated other facilities, to be available for use as a community youth centre. On weekday evenings, the hall would be available for hire by local clubs. On weekends generally, the hall would be available for youth activities, local clubs and commercial hire. On weekday evenings, Saturday evenings and Sunday afternoons, the show court and training hall would be used for Suns training sessions and matches.

The proposed site where the Arena will be built is the old driving range at The Olympic just a few miles from junction 3 of the M25

The Suns believe that the proposed Arena would be of considerable benefit to Swanley and the surrounding area.

  • Under the Suns’ plan, roughly two thirds of the Arena’s operating hours would be set aside for community use.
  • Local schools and clubs would also benefit by having a first-class sports facility available for use during the school day and other arranged times.
  • Local schools would also benefit from having Suns professional basketball players available to coach at all times during the school day, as well as at lunch and after school clubs.
  • The Suns plan to make the Arena available to host international basketball competitions and national, regional and county team training session.
  • The Arena would be the venue for all of the Suns home matches, including the home matches of our professional women’s team, some of which are televised on the BBC.

The Suns intend that any revenue generated from the operation of the Arena be dedicated to covering the cost of building and operating the Arena whilst subsidising the activities and support which the Suns provide to schools and communities.

A little bit of background
The Suns are one of the premier co-ed youth basketball clubs in Great Britain. The club has done an outstanding job in developing young players.  Last summer, five Suns’ players (including four junior members) represented Great Britain in the FIBA European Championships. In the past dozen years, over 40 Suns have represented England or Great Britain in international competition and over 20 Suns have played for American universities, almost all on full basketball scholarships. Many of these players are unlikely to have been motivated to attended university in the UK. In addition, Suns’ junior and senior teams have amassed over 20 national championships in a little over a decade.

Sevenoaks Suns celebrate winning the WBBL Playoff final at The O2 Arena in May, 2018

Moreover, the Suns have what is probably the most successful professional sports team in Kent. Last Sunday, the Suns’ professional women’s team won the play-off championship of the WBBL for the second consecutive year. When added to this season’s regular season title, the gold-medal in the 2017 National Trophy championship and the 2017 play-off title, the tally for the Suns Women comes to four national championships in two seasons. Suns Chairman, Ian Youngson said: “I am not aware of any professional team in Kent which can equal this achievement.”

However, Youngson stressed: “While the Suns produce elite teams and players, we are not an elite club. We are proud of our competitive successes, but winning is not our primary objective.

“As a club, the Suns’ goal is to help young people develop into mature, confident and self-reliant individuals who are able to work constructively as part of a team, understand the focus and effort required to achieve excellence in any endeavour and are capable of performing at a high personal level in a challenging environment.

“While playing high-level basketball requires commitment, the Suns always insist that family commitments, academic commitments and religious commitments must take precedence. We stress teamwork, planning, self-discipline and hard work. Players must develop the skill of balancing competing commitments – an essential workplace skill.

Many Suns achieve a high level of basketball performance. However, we enthusiastically welcome any young person who wishes to work to get better – regardless of skill level or experience. Not surprisingly, even our best players began as beginners.”

For more information concerning the Suns Arena Project, you can contact Phil Webb at philqwebb@btinternet.com.
For more information concerning the Suns basketball program, you can contact Ian Youngson at icyoungson@gmail.com.