SUMMERSIDE – P.E.I.’s professional basketball franchise is now a slam-dunk.
The only thing that remains to be seen is where the National Basketball League of Canada (NBL) franchise will play its home games.
The league announced its formal acceptance of a P.E.I. team on Tuesday.
Cornwall residents Duncan Shaw and Darren MacKay co-own the franchise.
Shaw said a decision on the host city will be announced later this week, but revealed the team will only have one home base.
“You have to pick a place to play, but it’s very much an Island-wide franchise,” said Shaw. “We’re going to try and have our folks in every community on the Island, and try and get out there and spread the word about what we're trying to do.”
There has been speculation on whether the team would play all of its home games in either Summerside or Charlottetown, or split its schedule between the two cities.
The NBL schedule is comprised of 36 games, half of which will be played at the home venue. The team will begin its schedule in early November.
The Summerside Chamber of Commerce is hosting a business mixer on Thursday, and promise a special announcement “that brings good news to the ‘Island’ and ‘Summerside.’” Sources say the announcement may be related to the NBL franchise.
The manager of the Charlottetown Civic Centre previously said negotiations with Shaw and MacKay were ongoing, but scheduling conflicts with the P.E.I. Rocket hockey team could be an issue.
Summerside’s Credit Union Place has the advantage over the capital city in the form of a basketball court, a legacy of the 2009 Canada Games.
The Civic Centre doesn’t have a floor, and would require funding of up to $150,000 to cover the expense.
NBL president Andre Levingston left the venue decision up to the owners, but said the entire province will be in for entertaining basketball regardless of where the team plays.
“(Islanders) are going to see some unusually big kids walking around – big strong and fast,” he said. “The entertainment is going to be unmatched. They can’t really fathom yet what to expect, but they’re going to be absolutely thrilled when they see the level of play that these guys have in our league.”
The NBL will be made up of seven teams, including squads from Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Quebec and Ontario.
The league will hold a three-round draft Aug. 20 to 21 in Toronto. The first day is open to free agent players from around the world, while only Canadians will be drafted on the second day.
The schedule has left the Island team’s owners with lots to do, and little time.
“Now we scramble,” laughed Shaw. “The draft is in two weeks and we are talking to some coaches, players...and starting to organize some sponsorships. There’s an awful lot of things to get done, but we're putting together a good team and I think we can put it all together.”
For more on the league, visit www.nblcanada.com