Nova Scotia

Cape Breton's professional basketball team in danger of folding

Despite its most successful season in 2018-19, the Cape Breton Highlanders may have played their last game.

'We need financial support, meaning we need more investors. We need an influx of funds'

The Cape Breton Highlanders faced the Halifax Hurricanes in the playoffs last month. (Vaughan Merchant/Cape Breton Highlanders)

Despite its most successful season ever, Cape Breton's professional basketball is in danger of folding.

The Cape Breton Highlanders finished the National Basketball League of Canada season with a 19-21 win-loss record, earning their first playoff appearance.

The team was eliminated in the playoffs by the Halifax Hurricances last month.

But while the team has been racking up wins, attendance has dwindled.

During its first season three years ago, the Highlanders attracted an average of 1,475 fans per game.  But the number dropped to 1,238 in 2018-19.

Tyrone Levingston is president of the Cape Breton Highlanders. He said the team could fold this summer without an influx of investment. (CBC/Hal Higgins)

Tyrone Levingston, the team's owner, said the team is operating on a shoestring and struggling to make ends meet.

He said without investment the team will not have the funds to continue.

"We've been doing everything in our power to prolong that from happening," said Levingston.  "But the inevitable is happening where time has just caught up with us."

The Highlanders made the league playoffs for the first time this season. (Vaughan Merchant/Cape Breton Highlanders)

Levingston said the team has an annual budget of about $300,000, which includes salaries for players and staff.

He said that's the lowest amount of any team in the league.

There are 10 investors, including Levingston, Membertou First Nation and a number of Cape Breton business people.

"We need financial support, meaning we need more investors," said Levingston. "We need an influx of funds. We just need a major supporter to come in and see us through."

Levingston said the team will make a decision by mid-July.

With files from the CBC's Yvonne Leblanc-Smith