Pro basketball P.E.I. bound?

Transcontinental Staff
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National Basketball League of Canada

Professional basketball could be coming to Charlottetown this fall.

Two local entrepreneurs interested in bringing a franchise to the Island capital held a closed-door meeting with Mayor Clifford Lee on Tuesday afternoon.

Duncan Shaw, a former UPEI basketball Panther, and Darren MacKay are interested in establishing a team in the National Basketball League of Canada. Shaw and MacKay are with Cogsdale, a software company.

“We think the folks starting up the league are doing something exciting and we’re having a chat to see if there’s potential,’’ Shaw said.

Shaw played basketball at UPEI from 1986-89 and feels he has an understanding of the game and the Island market, in terms of basketball interest.

He added that Andre Levingston, acting CEO for the league, is intrigued by the possibility of locating a franchise in Charlottetown.

“Oh, they’re very excited. They have a lot of interest across the country (and) a lot of interest from high-calibre players in the U.S.’’

Levingston said it would cost at least $500,000 to put together a team and that the venture would need support from the City of Charlottetown and other investors.

Shaw didn’t want to comment on an exact figure yet.

“We’re still working on the numbers,’’ Shaw said. “It depends on a lot of factors and how you approach things. The league is still in the early stages so the numbers are pretty fluid.’’

The team would play out of the Charlottetown Civic Centre.

“I think this is a tremendous opportunity for the city,’’ Lee said following the hour-long meeting. “We have two entrepreneurs from the community who have a real keen interest in it and today was our first discussion.’’

Shaw and MacKay said they are in the process of developing a business plan.

Lee said the discussion did not involve money.

“There has been no talk of money,’’ the mayor said.

However, Lee said the team would have to operate out of the Civic Centre and the city is going to look into the cost of bringing in a floor that can cover the ice surface, which is suitable for basketball.

Summerside has one, which the city used for the recent Harlem Globetrotters show, but Lee said he won’t be asking to use it.

“I doubt very much if that’s a possibility.’’

The idea would be to have the team in place by the time the season begins in October.

“But if everything can’t be in place they’re not opposed to putting it off for a year to 2012.’’

Shaw said he thinks the P.E.I. market is big enough to support professional basketball.

“Some of the statistics we researched . . . across the Island it would have some potential,’’ Shaw said.

As for fan support, one report indicated each market needs to have a season ticket base of 2,500. The Civic Centre’s current anchor tenant, the QMJHL’s P.E.I. Rocket, averaged just over 1,800 fans this past season.

Shaw said that’s too much to expect.

“In terms of total tickets at a game, you’re looking in the 2,000-plus area. It’s a very different operation that junior hockey team. It’s a smaller business with less overhead.’’

Organizations: Charlottetown Civic Centre, National Basketball League of Canada, Harlem Globetrotters

Geographic location: Charlottetown, Iceland, P.E.I. U.S.

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