Nfld. & Labrador

St. John's city council approves agreement to bring pro basketball to Mile One

A deal to bring a National Basketball League franchise to St. John's will not mean any increase in the subsidy for Mile One Centre, the city said Monday.

City says deal guarantees 20 regular season games, up to 10 more if team makes playoffs

The city says expect details of game times and ticket prices soon. (Ian Hitchcock/Getty Images, CBC)

St. John's city council has approved an agreement to bring professional basketball to Mile One Centre this fall, the city announced Monday.

"This is a new sporting event for our city which will see positive economic spinoffs for area restaurants, bars, taxis, and other businesses," said Mayor Dennis O'Keefe in a news release.

St. John's Sports and Entertainment, which operates Mile One, has been working for months to secure a deal with the National Basketball League of Canada, after the 11-team league announced it was expanding to St. John's in July.

The deal guarantees 20 regular season games, with the potential for 10 playoff games, according to SJSE's chief executive officer Sheena McCrate.

At Monday's council meeting, O'Keefe stressed the importance of finding an anchor tenant to draw in corporate sponsorship, and McCrate echoed that point. 

"A 6,000-seat venue. That's what you want; you want events, you want games, you want reasons for people to come out," she said.

"It is obviously extremely important to have an anchor tenant, and for the first time it's basketball and not hockey."

SJSE CEO Sheena McCrate says she is optimistic people will embrace professional basketball at Mile One Centre. (Andrew Sampson/CBC)

According to the tentative deal, if the city raises $855,000 in suite and sponsorship revenue and attracts an average audience of 1,500 per game, SJSE will break even. 

The city said the deal is not expected to result in any increase to the subsidy now given to the stadium and the St. John's Convention Centre.

Hockey still a possibility at Mile One

McCrate added that the deal to bring basketball to town doesn't close the door to the possibility of a new hockey team coming to Mile One.

"This ownership group has a particular interest in bringing hockey so we're planning on working with them to hopefully make this happen for next season or the following season. " she said.

The NBL season runs from November to the middle of April, and ticket sales and prices will be announced by the team owners in the near future, according to the city.