His competitive basketball career is over, but Michael Linklater is still doing what he can to help others enjoy the sport with a campaign to build a new outdoor court in the heart of Saskatoon.
Linklater won a U SPORTS championship with the University of Saskatchewan Huskies, a Canadian Elite Basketball League title with the Saskatchewan Rattlers, and helped bring three-on-three hoops to the city as part of the International Basketball Federation (FIBA) 3×3 World Tour.
But before all that he was just a kid shooting baskets behind St. Mary’s school on the city’s west side.
“I used to say that was my court, you know? I would be out there playing all hours of the day and it’s something that kept me out of trouble,” Linklater said.
The neighbourhood court is where Linklater’s love of basketball began and now he’s part of a group looking to help more people enjoy the same experience.
Linklater and fellow basketball lovers Michael Donauer and Marcus Storey call their proposed project “Hoist the Hoops YXE.” They’re asking the City of Saskatoon to approve the construction of a regulation court in Victoria Park near the intersection of Spadina Crescent and Avenue C South, between the outdoor fitness circuit and the Victoria Park Pagoda.
While there are a variety of existing outdoor basketball courts throughout the city, the group says few, if any, have all the necessary features.
“One of the things that we struggle with here in Saskatoon is a lot of the courts that are out there right now have cracked pavement, have uneven rims, the height is different, there’s no meshes. What we’re wanting to propose here is something that’s really premier,” Linklater said.
The Hoist the Hoops YXE proposal would see the grassroots group raise the roughly $500,000 required to build the court and maintain it for the first ten years of its life.
They’re looking for the city to approve the Victoria Park site, manage the court’s construction and assume its ongoing maintenance costs — estimated at $10,000 per year — after the initial ten years have passed.
An early mockup features a total of six hoops on the court — one at either end and two on each side — to accommodate multiple half-court games at once. While the design may see some tweaks before construction, the key is that it meet international standards.
“The main court is going to be FIBA-regulation, which would be high school (standard) for anything in Saskatoon. FIBA is also (the standard) for the Rattlers, three-on-three tournaments,” Donauer said.
“The side courts are still to be determined. That’s going to depend on exactly how much room is available.”
The proposal, which has the support of the Saskatoon Minor Basketball Association, has already been presented to the city for public feedback. Now it’s up to city council’s planning, development and community services committee to decide whether to send it to council for final approval.
Donauer is confident the project will get the green light.
“The timing couldn’t be better. I think we’ve got it in our favour and I think there’s a lot of kids that are coming up — people of all ages but especially kids — that are watching the Raptors win the (NBA) championship, watching the Rattlers win the (CEBL) championship, and it’s going be a really fun place for a lot of people to get together and play some basketball.”
If the proposal is approved, the group says it already has commitments from a number of interested parties looking to contribute money and/or equipment to the cause. They’re hoping to begin construction in the spring of 2022.
“Our community is very basketball-minded so there’s a lot of support. Through the community engagement and consultation there was a lot of positive feedback in terms of having this (Victoria Park) location and we’re just excited to make this happen,” Linklater said.
The group has created a Facebook page where residents can stay updated on the project and provide their feedback.