A SPORTS organisation has ambitious plans to usher in the return of the Brighton Bears to top flight British basketball in a new stadium.

They hope to achieve this by building the new stadium at the Black Rock seafront area.

The Bears were one of Britain's top clubs in the 1990s, and even attracted the talents of former Chicago Bulls star Dennis Rodman for three games in 2006.

The Argus: Basketball legend Dennis Rodman plays for BrightonBasketball legend Dennis Rodman plays for Brighton

But that proved to be the club's final season, with owners announcing they would be taking a year off from the British Basketball League (BBL) "in the interests of the long term viability of the franchise".

The team never returned.

But, now, a Sussex basketball organisation hopes to revive the fallen franchise.

The Argus: Plans for a new stadium at Black RockPlans for a new stadium at Black Rock

The Sussex Bears, a community club offering people the chance to play and learn the sport in the county, has drawn up plans for a new stadium fit for their namesake.

They are currently based at the Sir Robert Woodard Academy in Lancing.

The Argus: Basketball could return to Brighton in a big wayBasketball could return to Brighton in a big way

Director Ricky Perrin said: "We are on a mission to bring basketball back to this city, just like it used to be.

"And the noises have been very good."

The Argus: Sussex Bears offer people the chance to learn how to play basketballSussex Bears offer people the chance to learn how to play basketball

Ricky said he and others from Sussex Bears had been in discussions with the council over the last 18 months regarding the feasibility of the club's proposals, and there had been plenty of enthusiasm from both camps.

"We gave a big presentation on the Brighton Bears - their history, how they won the BBL," the 41-year-old said.

The Argus: The big plans could see a new basketball stadium builtThe big plans could see a new basketball stadium built

"We want to build bespoke basketball facilities, with space for three basketball courts. It would be like a giant leisure centre throughout the week, and schools and community groups could hire it out at a reduced rate.

"Then, come the weekend, the seating comes out to turn it into an arena.

"The minimum amount of seating needed for a BBL franchise is 1,500. We are planning for between a 2,400 and an 4,000 capacity."

Ricky pointed to the 3,000-seat Eagles Community Arena, opened for the Newcastle Eagles basketball team in 2019, as a recent example of how a similar scheme could benefit a city.

"They get 200,000 people through their each year," Ricky said. "Communities can hire the facilities at a reduced rate, it's really popular.

"(This scheme is) a real win for the community, if we can pull it off. We are now finalising the business plans and seeing how we can make it work. If we get the funding to do it, we are 100 per cent ready to go.

"Since I have been with the Bear I have travelled all over the country playing basketball. I see all these amazing facilities elsewhere then I come back here and we don't have that.

"I was born here and have always lived her. I want the best for this city and I want us to have the best facilities possible."

The Argus: The return of Brighton Bears could have a positive impact on the local communityThe return of Brighton Bears could have a positive impact on the local community

Ricky hopes to echo the community impact of Brighton and Hove Albion FC, and the club's charity arm Albion in the Community, with the return of Brighton Bears. This would include a range of community schemes, work with schools in the city and more.

"It would really bring this city together. It would bring business to the seafront and Marina during the season, which is in the winter, and there would be outreach programmes as well. It's a major community asset.

"It's going to be amazing to bring the Brighton Bears back, but the package you bring with it is phenomenal."

A Brighton and Hove City Council spokesman said: "We’re investing £12m from the Local Enterprise Partnership to ensure the Black Rock site can be developed in future. This work will conclude in 2022.

"We will be working on a draft development brief this year to guide this process. This brief will be subject to public consultation before going to councillors for final approval.

"We are always happy to discuss ideas with interested parties, and we have had active discussions with Brighton Bears about their interest in the Black Rock site.

"But we are not encouraging detailed proposals at this stage, as we do not want to prejudge what the development brief and consultation process will produce."