St. John's Edge not returning to Mile One, as city to announce new franchise
The St. John's Edge have played their last game at Mile One Centre, according to the City of St. John's.
Ward 3 Coun. Jamie Korab — who is also chair of St. John's Sports and Entertainment — told reporters on Thursday the city and the ownership group of the Edge could not reach a lease agreement for next season.
But the city is preparing to welcome a new professional basketball team to Mile Once Centre this fall, after council and St. John's Sports and Entertainment jointly approved a proposal from local ownership group 2001 Investments in July.
Negotiations are underway to finalize the tentative deal, with further details being announced in the coming weeks, Korab said.
"It's exciting to get an anchor tenant coming in here, one of hopefully a few that will have bums back in the seats, obviously abiding by provincial health orders," said Korab.
The new team will play in the American Basketball Association in the 2021-22 season. The league has been operating since 1999. The number of teams in the league seems to fluctuate from year to year, but the rapidly expanding ABA has more than 130 teams according to its website.
Korab said businessman Tony Kenny is part of the group bringing in the new team. In 2017 Kenny struck a lease agreement for Mile One in an effort to bring in basketball team ahead of the Edge finding its home. Kenny has also been a part of to past efforts to bring a major junior hockey franchise to St. John's.
The 10-year tentative agreement
As for hockey, Korab said SJSE is eager to get a lease signed with the Newfoundland Growlers for the upcoming season.
In 2019, the city announced it had reached a 10-year lease agreement in principle with the Growlers and the Edge.
Korab said it was never signed by ownership groups, and in April both organizations were notified to come forward with proposals.
In November 2020 the ECHL suspended play for its entire North Division, which includes the Growlers, due to risks associated with the COVID-19 pandemic.
Atlantic Sports and Entertainment, the owners of the Edge, say they, too, are disappointed with the city's announcement.
"Our loyal fanbase deserved better, and after three successful seasons of being an anchor tenant at Mile One Centre, where we lead the National Basketball League of Canada in attendance, we deserved better," reads a media release issued shortly after 8 p.m. on Thursday.
Growlers owners wanted Edge
Meanwhile, Deacon Sports and Entertainment, the owners of the Newfoundland Growlers, say they're surprised by the city's announcement on Thursday of a new basketball club coming to St. John's.
In its own media release, the company said it recently submitted a proposal to SJSE, in conjunction with the Edge, in which Deacon Sports would assume the rights to the team, allowing it to continue to play in the National Basketball League of Canada, at Mile One.
The company said the proposal offered to settle the Edge's outstanding matters, including debt owing on the recently installed 360 LED board inside Mile One Centre.
The Edge ownership group said that earlier this year it was instructed by SJSE to come to an agreement on a number of outstanding matters, which included a resolution to debts owing on the recently installed 360 LED board.
Based on those instructions, according to Atlantic Sports and Entertainment, it "successfully negotiated a structured agreement to transfer the franchise rights of the St. John's Edge Basketball Club to Deacon Sports and Entertainment in an effort to settle those outstanding matters."
"This proposal was delivered to St. John's Sports and Entertainment last week by Deacon Sports and Entertainment, with the full support of Atlantic Sports and Entertainment," the release reads.
Atlantic Sports and Entertainment said it strongly believes that SJSE "acted in bad faith" through the lease negotiation process and that SJSE "never had any intentions to enter into any lease agreement that saw Deacon Sports and Entertainment oversee the operation of the NBL Canada franchise thus misrepresenting our loyal fans and the taxpayers of the City of St. John's."
Korab said the city went through the proposal and thought the deal from 2001 Investments was a better fit for tax payers and SJSE.
"It wasn't something that was done in the media. It was a great process and it's going to be something that's great for Mile One," he said.
Korab said he couldn't comment on the Edge's outstanding debts.
- A previous version of the story said the ABA has 26 teams. In fact, the rapidly expanding league, whose roster of teams fluctuates from year to year, appears to have more than 130 franchises.Jul 16, 2021 3:06 PM NT
With files from Henrike Wilhelm