Professional basketball strong possibility for Mile One, decision in 30 days

The National Basketball League of Canada is eyeing a move to St. John's, while the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League says it is not interested.

Members of IceCaps ownership team involved, commissioner says

With the St. John's IceCaps now in the history books, an ownership group is looking to bring professional basketball to the city. (CBC)

Mile One Centre could be alive with a new professional sports team next fall.

David Magley, commissioner of the National Basketball League of Canada, told CBC News he expects a decision on expansion to the province within 30 days.

Early indications are the team would be run by members of the St. John's IceCaps ownership group.

"They are people around the IceCaps that absolutely want to keep that venue full," Magley said. "They want to bring pro sports and probably major junior hockey back to that venue so they can all work together."

Nothing on paper, but fast track an option

Magley said no official bid has been made yet, but the process has been ongoing for 60 days.

He visited Newfoundland and Labrador in April to check out Mile One and meet with the prospective ownership group.

David Magley, commissioner of the NBL Canada, visited St. John's in April to meet prospective owners and visit Mile One Centre. (NBLCanada.com)

"The market fits perfect, the venue is great," Magley said. "The people we talked to have the background and the acumen to be very, very successful. It's a very easy thing to fast-track through when an application is submitted."

The NBL Canada played last season with 10 teams in two divisions — Central and Atlantic.

On Tuesday, the league officially introduced an 11th team in Sudbury, Ont.

A new franchise in St. John's would compete against Sydney, Halifax, Charlottetown, Moncton and Saint John within the Atlantic division.

Junior hockey team preferred, but no expansion imminent

Ten of the 11 cities in the basketball league also play host to a major junior hockey team.

Magley said a partnership between two teams is ideal, since the hockey team normally serves as the primary tenant in the building and the basketball team benefits.

The two teams would share things like sponsors, concession deals and parking contracts.

The QMJHL is not looking at an expansion- Photi Sotiropoulos

The Quebec Major Junior Hockey League, however, insists it is not looking at St. John's as an option.

"The QMJHL is not looking at an expansion," said league communications director Photi Sotiropoulos. "We are happy with the current dwellings of our 18 teams and are not looking at relocating any of them."

Market must support travel costs

Magley said travel would not be a hurdle as long as the ownership group understands the need to budget for the added costs.

"It's an issue if the group coming in wasn't cognizant of it. But they recognize that part of their model is a travel budget for them and to help offset for the teams coming to them."

The Cape Breton Highlanders joined the league last season. Now they could have a neighbour in Newfoundland. (Cape Breton Highlanders)

The basketball league started play in 2011 with seven teams. It recruits players from college ranks, both in Canada and the United States, as well as from other leagues around the world.

The highest attendance rate is in Kitchener, Ont., where the home team averages 5,429 fans a night. The lowest is a mere 239 fans per night in Orangeville, Ont., while most teams sit between 1,000 and 2,000 fans.

The St. John's IceCaps averaged 4,103 fans per home game this season in the American Hockey League.

About the Author

Ryan Cooke

Ryan Cooke works for CBC out of its bureau in St. John's.