Professional basketball returning to Edmonton in 2019

SLAV KORNIK - GLOBAL NEWS - MAY 2, 2018

Professional basketball is trying its hand in Edmonton again.

Alberta’s capital will be home to one of six teams in the new Canadian Elite Basketball League’s (CEBL) inaugural season. Edmonton will join Saskatoon, Hamilton, Niagara, Guelph and Fraser Valley as communities that will have CEBL teams.

“Mike Morreale of CFL fame is the CEO of the league and they’ve been working for about the past year and a half on putting together an executive team and doing a bunch of research on different cities,” said CEBL president and chief operating officer Lee Genier, who has previously worked with the Calgary Stampeders.

“So that’s where the inaugural six cities were born out of, from a lot of research and a lot of hard work.”

READ MORE: Former CFL player Mike Morreale heads up new Canadian Elite Basketball League

The CEBL said its first season will start in May 2019 and will run a 20-game regular season schedule, as well as playoffs and a championship series in August. Each team will have a 12-player roster, with a Canadian-player quota similar to the CFL.

The Edmonton Professional Basketball Club will have its 10 home games at the Expo Centre.

“It fills a bit of a void if you look at from when NBA is played. We’ll have some amazing talent to choose from,” Genier said.

“What the mandate is right now is to have Canadian content. What that looks like, I would say right now is to have three, four, five Canadian players on a team and then have talent from the U.S. and Europe as well.”

READ MORE: New pro basketball team to play at Guelph’s Sleeman Centre

This isn’t the first time Edmonton will have a professional basketball team, with limited success off the court.

The Edmonton Chill played its first season in the International Basketball League in 2008 before changing its name to the Energy the following season.

The team played its final season in 2012 before folding due to financial problems.

The Edmonton Skyhawks were a professional team that played in the National Basketball League in 1993 and 1994 until the league folded during the 1994 season. The Skyhawks played their home games at Northlands Coliseum.

Genier said the league’s executive has done its home work and believes Edmonton can be a successful city for a professional basketball team.

“Working with the building (Expo Centre) has been a big part of it, being welcomed by the building,” he said.

“People have certainly talked about basketball leagues in the past that have maybe folded, no disrespect to that, but one thing I can say is we have an amazing executive team and a great ownership group that is very committed to making this work.”

“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,” said CEBL CEO Mike Morreale in a statement.

READ MORE: Aspiring pro basketball players test their skills at NBA Jr. clinic in Montreal

Genier said part of his role will include making sure the inaugural season of the CEBL will have more success in Edmonton than previous franchises.

“I’ll be making my way and setting up business units in each city and really putting a face to the teams, and having subsequent, real launches once we have our price scene and everything in place.”

Organized under a corporate structure called Canadian Basketball Ventures, the league will foot the bill for everything from ticketing platforms, to national sponsorships, to marketing.

© 2018 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.


Darrin Conway