NBL loses a franchise, delays start of another

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And then there were nine . . . or maybe 10 or 11 or who knows.

Some three-and-a-half months before the National Basketball League of Canada is scheduled to begin play, there is still a question about how many teams will actually be playing.

The NBL suffered a body blow Thursday when the Orangeville A’s announced they were closing shop. The former Brampton A’s franchise moved to the Athletic Institute in Orangeville after two years in Brampton. The Orangeville facility is owned by A’s owner James Tipping. While their expenses were minimal, they drew small crowds.

The new Sudbury franchise also announced that while it will join the NBL, it will not do so until the 2018-19 season.

“We are less waiting for a year rather than planning for the start of that season given all the things that we currently have our hands full with,” said Andrew Dale, the vice-president of marketing and development for Sudbury Wolves Sports Entertainment. “The timing for us to get this right starting November 2018 is great for us. The (NBL board of governors) accepts this and wants to see it work.”

“We will now have the ability to position the product in the market; gain awareness throughout the season; sharing an building our profile as well as develop ticket programs, sponsorhip programs, things like that.”

The SWSE group, which includes the Sudbury Wolves of the OHL, the NBL franchise as well as the Sudbury Spartans of the NFC, recently learned from city council in Greater Sudbury that the site of the new event centre would be on property co-owned by the owner of the SWSE organization.

The delay by the Sudbury franchise leaves the NBL Central Division with four teams.

On their website the A’s said it “has not been an easy conclusion to come to.”

“As an organization we had some internal goals that we were unable to achieve in this smaller market.”

The loss of a team is troublesome to the small league but it’s amplified by the loss of Tipping. He was one of the stronger owners, who many times worked behind the scenes to ensure the survival of the league.

The A’s demise is the latest in a series of issues in the NBL.

The league expected to have 12 teams this year with the addition of Sudbury and St. John’s, Nfld.

The situation in St. John’s is confusing in that several individuals were interested in owning an NBL franchise. The ownership group accepted by NBL Canada does not have a lease with the building, yet reports persist that the group without the franchise has reached an agreement for a lease.

The St. John’s team is by no means the only team looking to sign a lease. The Windsor Express is in negotiations with the WFCU Centre for a more reasonable rental rate. They are also in discussions with St. Clair College to play at that facility.

“We have two facilities we are negotiating with,” Express CEO and president Dartis Willis said. “We are going to play, though. We aren’t going anywhere. We will be (in the league) this year.”

Willis is back despite announcing at the end of last year that he was stepping away from his position on the Express. “They won’t let me leave,” he said with a laugh.

The other Central Division team in negotiations is the K-W Titans. The Kitchener/Waterloo franchise pays more rent than any other team in the NBL and it put them in financial difficulty after their first year. The Titans are discussing potential alternate playing locations pending negotiations with the Kitchener Auditorium.

The one question mark that seems to be resolved is the Island Storm. There was some question whether they would operate this year.

“The Storm is in,” said Vito Frijia, president of the NBL. “We have some things to work out in the league but the league is going to continue.”

The NBL is still without a commissioner to replace David Magley.


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