Saskatoon joins new Canadian Elite Basketball League
Saskatoon’s SaskTel Centre will be home to professional basketball in 2019, according to the founders of the Canadian Elite Basketball League (CEBL).
The CEBL announced six teams will compete in its inaugural 20-game season beginning in May 2019.
Edmonton, Hamilton, Niagara, Guelph and the Fraser Valley will also have 12-player rosters playing ten home and ten away games, plus playoffs and a championship series in August.
“With basketball surging in popularity in Canada, we focused on communities that are rich in grassroots community fan support and share a passion for fast-paced action,” CEBL CEO Mike Morreale said in a news release.
Lee Genier, formerly of the Saskatchewan Rush lacrosse team, was appointed president and COO of western operations for the CEBL.
“As we start out, we would love to have three (or) four Canadians on each team,” Genier said.
Saskatoon has a tumultuous history with professional basketball, including the Saskatchewan Storm of the World Basketball League, which existed from 1990 until 1992.
In 1993, the Saskatoon Slam won the National Basketball League title before the league folded in 1994.
Former Slam player Sean Tyson stayed in Saskatoon and now coaches with Greenwave United basketball.
“Our community basketball support and local support for our teams and players is phenomenal,” said Tyson, who is originally from Baltimore, Md.
He thought social media and growth in local youth sports programs have made basketball a more viable option for the city.
Because the team will compete in the summer months, there is capacity for the incoming team to be successful, according to Tourism Saskatoon president and CEO Todd Brandt.
“Having a team that comes in mid-week in that slot of time is actually going to be very good for Saskatoon,” he said.
There is also no financial risk to the public, according to Darla Lindbjerg, president and CEO of the Greater Saskatoon Chamber of Commerce.
“There’s no cost associated with it, so we won’t see an increase in taxation or other negatives that typically could happen when you’re asking a team to come in,” Lindbjerg said.
“The infrastructure is already here, the team is welcome, and we’re hoping to see them as a success.”
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