The National Basketball League of Canada has just come into existence and Fredericton wants in.
A group of local investors is attempting to bring Fredericton its own NBL team. The question is, would Fredericton be able to support a professional basketball franchise? It may be possible, but like any goal, there are obstacles.
Business and corporate support as well as fan support, can cause problems when starting a franchise.
“If you are going to take a leap at something like this you probably need about $250,000 of start-up capital,” said former MLA Kelly Lamrock, who is heading up the local investors group.
As a way to promote the idea, Lamrock and Saint John Millrats General Manager Ian McCarthy organized a pre-season game between two current NBL teams, the Saint John Millrats and the Quebec Kebs, in Fredericton at the new Currie Center, which took place on Oct.23.
The hosting Millrats lost in this exhibition game 108-89, but still put on a good show.
“The cooperate community wasn’t there the way we hoped, but a lot of that was because sometimes selling a Saint John team in Fredericton is tough. The label is different than it would be for a Fredericton team.,” says Lamrock.
Jaren Jackson, an NBA champion and current head coach of the Millrats, had nothing but praise for the 500 fans that showed up.
“The crowd was great,” he said. “They were rowdy, they were into it. It was exciting to see the people come out.”
As Lamrock said, if it had been a Fredericton team playing, the turnout may have been even larger for cooperate and fans alike.
The last time Fredericton had a professional team in its area was in 1999, but since then it has had no pro level team to cheer for.
A Fredericton NBL team would provide competitive basketball of which all of Fredericton could come together to support.
“It would make the folks here in Fredericton appreciate the sport at the pro level,” said Jackson, who has experienced the city of Saint John come out and support his team.
“Having a team here would be awesome.”
So how soon would Fredericton be able to have its own team?
“Possibly as early as next season,” said the NBL’s director of communications.
Kelly Lamrock thinks its possible as soon a next year, but there are a few things to watch out for.
“The big thing for us is watching the fate of the new maritime teams…If Moncton and Summerside can make it then that’s very promising to investors.
“So those two teams hold the key for Fredericton’s possibilities of success. If a place like Moncton can come together to support their own franchise, Fredericton has a very strong shot at its very own as well.”
Until then, basketball lovers in Fredericton will have to wait. Fans will have to travel to Saint John or Moncton to get their professional basketball fix.
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