SUMMERSIDE – There’s a 100 per cent chance of a Storm in Summerside.
Summerside Storm co-owners Duncan Shaw and Darren MacKay announced Wednesday that the Island’s first professional basketball franchise will play out of Credit Union Place for the 2012-2013 National Basketball League of Canada season.
The pair originally hoped to solidify a contract with the western capital by last January, but ongoing negotiations with the city kept many guessing about the team’s future.
“We’re signing a contract to come back,” Shaw confirmed, adding that the new contract, like last season, is a one-year deal with the city.
“There’s all kinds of complexities that go into getting (a deal) done, but the long and short of it is we’re signing to come back and can’t wait to get things started. We’re all on board to start as soon as possible on getting going on a multi-year (contract), but the one in place right now is just going to be a one-year.”
The Storm drew record crowds to EastLink Arena during the NBL of Canada’s inaugural season, despite the team missing the playoffs and sporting a losing record.
The franchise lost money in its first year, but that was part of Shaw and MacKay’s business plan.
Shaw said the Storm’s two goals for its second season are to make the playoffs and to break even.
Remaining in Summerside is a large factor in the financial equation.
With the city acting essentially as the team’s landlord, Shaw said the price had to be right for the Storm to continue playing at Credit Union Place.
“The rent’s going up and we’re fine with that. In the end… it’s a very positive contract for the team and, hopefully, the city,” Shaw said of the new contract. “It won’t mean a huge increase (in ticket prices). We haven’t set our prices for next year yet, but the agreement lets us keep those very economical ticket prices in place. We still want to let that family of four, that’s got all kinds of bills to pay, make it to every game.”
He added that the cost of courtside seats are most likely to be affected by any increase to ticket prices.
While the owners and the city laboured through business negotiations, there has been little debate among local fans about where the team should play next season.
Summerside resident Ken Trenholm and his family of six began an online petition earlier this month, aiming to keep the Storm in the city. The Trenholms collected nearly 680 signatures, nearly all from Prince County residents.
Team officials invited the entire family to attend Wednesday’s announcement.
“(The Storm) may have come in being just a basketball team, but when the idea came that we may lose them, I think many people in Summerside said, ‘This is something of value to us,’” said Trenholm. “I bet everybody in the community thought they should start a petition to show their support or to show they care… we just happened to be the first people out of the gate that did it. When I talk to my kids… it means a lot to them, and that’s really where it hits home.”
Shaw said keeping that community support in mind was the constant of the negotiations with the city during the negotiation process.
“You can always make a business case for anything… but we kept coming back to where the fans were showing us such great support in Credit Union Place, and every discussion wrapped back to that for the past six months,” he said. “You can’t put a dollar figure on that fan support. Could you build it somewhere else? Maybe. But you have it, and it’s such a huge thing to have that you don’t want to mess with it unless you have to.”