Almost 18 months after they lost their 'Illawarra' name and the NBL looked to shift games out of town, president Dorry Kordahi believes the Hawks have shored up their future in Wollongong.
The side has played at the Wollongong venue since 1998, but it's the first time they've worked in partnership with Venues NSW.
These two moves, along with reaching last season's finals, have left Kordahi feeling optimistic about where this club is heading.
"Something that I've said from the start is we're committed to this region, and we are the Illawarra Hawks. We're here to build this brand and this franchise to be here long term," Kordahi told the Mercury.
"This is the first long-term contract that the Hawks have signed with Venues NSW in 20 years of playing there, so if this doesn't further solidify our investment in this region, and wanting to grow this town, I don't know what we can do as a club to shore up that we are serious and we're here to stay."
Brian Goorjian's side will open their 2021-22 account on the road against South East Melbourne and Sydney, before returning home to play seven games at the WEC.
Illawarra's draw is a far cry from last season, when Illawarra played 16 of their opening17 games on the road due to the Northern Beaches' COVID outbreak and the inaugural NBL Cup.
Kordahi hopes the favourable schedule will tempt plenty of Hawkheads to get out and show their support.
"Last year was fantastic, considering what we had to go through. But we need more Hawks fans, we need more corporates, we need more people coming in, putting bums on seats," he said.
"We're running a professional club in a professional league, and we're not going to be the old Hawks that was run on an oily rag or the old Hawks that was cutting budgets. For us to compete against these big-city teams, we need to lift up our professionalism on and off the court. And that's something that I hope the community has seen, that we're serious about our investment, not just financially but emotionally, mentally and physically.
"I've spent a lot of time here working with the community, working with commercial partners and working with new partners to show fans that we're doing everything we promised we would do, and we need our fans to back what it is."
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The NBL Blitz draw will be released on Friday, with the WEC expected to host at least two pre-season games.
The Mercury also understands that Wollongong could get extra games in the coming months, with speculation that a Melbourne-based team could be based here for the start of the season.
We're not going to be the old Hawks that was run on an oily rag or the old Hawks that was cutting budgets.- Dorry Kordahi
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