The NBL's plans to expand the Hawks footprint across regional NSW and the ACT are in disarray following the closure of the AIS Arena, the former home of the Canberra Cannons.
The Hawks had hoped to continue a relationship with Basketball ACT and the ACT government, but that now appears unlikely to go ahead next season given they won't have access to an appropriately-sized venue.
The Hawks could still play pre-season games in Canberra at Tuggeranong or the convention centre, but they would need more than 3000 seats to make a regular-season game viable.
"This decision has come unexpectedly and so the ACT Government will now need to work with users of the facility, including the Canberra Capitals and Giants, on alternatives," ACT Sport Minister Yvette Berry said.
The NBL was hoping the ACT government would contribute to the Illawarra Hawks playing matches in the capital next season.
The Mercury had launched a 'Put It Back' campaign, in a push to reinstate the Illawarra name, as new owners, led by Sydney businessman and former Kings part-owner Dorry Kordahi and ex-Philadelphia 76ers general manager Bryan Colangelo attempt to rebuild the club after the latest round of voluntary administration.
"When the club went into administration, we had to have a look at what was sustainable and how we could co-ordinate the best way to move forward," NBL owner Larry Kestelman told the Mercury after announcing the new owners.
"It was clear this couldn't happen again.
"The league has moved a long way in its professionalism and global presence, we want the Hawks to widen the footprint and stand for all of NSW. But we also need the Hawks to be commercially viable and supported, if that's not happening then we will look at the situation again."
The Mercury exclusively revealed the six-time NBL title-winner Brian Goorjian would take over as coach of the new-look club, a move which stunned Australian basketball fans.
The ACT government has accused the federal government of allowing the AIS Arena to deteriorate after Canberra's largest sport, concert and exhibition venue was closed indefinitely on Monday.
Australian Community Media revealed Sport Australia had shut its doors, sparking fears COVID-19 had fast-tracked plans to decommission the 39-year-old venue.
Users have been told existing bookings have been cancelled, future bookings won't be accepted and there is no timeline for a reopening.
Coronavirus physical-distancing restrictions have led to indoor venues being virtually unused since March, but it's understood the pandemic is not the only reason for the closure.
It's understood a recent facility audit prompted the decision, sources fearing it was used an excuse to shut the Arena immediately.
Sport Australia confirmed the venue needed "infrastructure work" but would not answer questions about a reopening.
However, the closure could mean the Canberra Capitals could be forced to search for interstate basketball venues to host WNBL matches in Wollongong, when their schedule clashes with events at the National Convention Centre.
Users were informed via email about the closure, catching the Capitals and Giants Netball off guard after both had planned to use the AIS Arena at some stage this season.
The Giants were had requested available dates to use the venue for the Super Netball season, but were forced to send a message to ACT members saying they were "extremely" disappointed to have to scrap plans for a Canberra game.
But back to back defending champion Capitals are in the toughest position, in danger of being without a venue in Canberra at different stages of the WNBL season.
They have also played all finals matches - including two grand final series - at the AIS and attracted sell out crowds of more than 4000 to the major matches.
But WNBL schedule clashes at the convention centre and the unavailability of the Arena is set to force Capitals officials to seek a new home.
One option would be returning to Tuggeranong, but it would be a step backwards for women's sport in Canberra.
Interstate venues, potentially in Albury, Newcastle or Wollongong, could emerge as more attractive options.
The Capitals have hosted every home grand final at the AIS Arena, and the Canberra Cannons carved out their success at what is affectionately known as "The Palace".
Newcastle's new indoor venue will not be available for at least 18 months, meaning there is now no suitable venue to take NBL in NSW outside of Sydney or Wollongong.