While everyone was looking for the next St. John’s hockey team, professional basketball may be dribbling towards Mile One Centre.
National Basketball League of Canada (NBL) commissioner David Magley was in St. John’s in April to tour the city and its venue. He liked what he saw.
“(St. John’s) had the best AHL franchise in the league. Here is a market untapped that knows how to run things the right way,” said Magley. “It’s a great venue and the right people to make something exciting.”
The NBL is growing fast. With two expansion teams last season and rooting in Northern Ontario this off-season, the league is hoping to go coast to coast with 25-30 teams in the next three to five years.
“Basketball is the fastest growing sport in the world and in Canada specifically,” boasted Magley. “It’s an exciting time and we want St. John’s to be apart of that.”
But does St. John’s want a professional basketball franchise?
The average league attendance for the NBL is just under 2,000. London, Ont., leads the way, averaging nearly 6,000 while Orangeville, Ont., anchors the league with under 400 fans a game.
League expansion comes with a warning right on their website. A new team must pay a $50,000 application fee and have an owner with a documented net worth of $5 million. They also must be willing to lose money in the first five years of operation.
“You guys (St. John’s) had over six thousand show up for the Globetrotters this month,” acknowledged Magley. “That has to be a Canada best. You have the market.”
Magley wouldn’t out right say who would be behind the expansion team.
That group has been given 30 days or so to come up with an answer and fast track a St. John’s basketball franchise for tip-off next season.
“We’ve pushed for and I expect an answer over the next three weeks,” said Magley. “We aren’t going to need much of an answer from my side. If they come up with an application and the funding, it will be a fast tracked approval.”