World-class outdoor basketball facility in Saskatoon close to becoming reality

A state-of-the-art outdoor basketball venue is close to becoming a reality in Saskatoon. The local group Hoist The Hoops, the City of Saskatoon and Canadian Tire Jumpstart Charities have reached an agreement to build courts at River Landing.

Local group Hoist The Hoops, city, Jumpstart charity reach agreement on River Landing venue

Michael Linklater, shown here in a 2017 file photo, worked with Marcus Storey and Michael Donauer to form Hoist the Hoops, a group focused on creating an outdoor basketball facility to serve as both a recreational opportunity and a way to bring community together in Saskatoon’s core. (Liam Richards/The Canadian Press)

A world-class outdoor basketball facility planned for Saskatoon is one step closer to welcoming kids to shoot hoops.

It's a project rooted in one of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission's calls to action, the City of Saskatoon said in a news release this week — and one a local basketball star hopes will inspire kids in his hometown.

The city, along with local group Hoist the Hoops and Canadian Tire's Jumpstart charity, have reached an agreement to build the new courts at River Landing, the news release said.

Michael Linklater, one of the country's premier three-on-three basketball players and a co-founder of Hoist the Hoops, says he's happy to see this project come to fruition.

"This is probably going to be the best outdoor basketball court in Canada," said Linklater, who formed Hoist the Hoops with Marcus Storey and Michael Donauer to bring an outdoor basketball facility to Saskatoon's core neighbourhood.

The intent is to have the facility serve as both a recreation opportunity and a way to bring community together, said Linklater, who is Nehiyaw (Cree) from Thunderchild First Nation and grew up in Saskatoon.

"This is going to be right here in the heart of our city … for families to be able to utilize it, and even passersby are going to be able to just watch some great recreational basketball."

The $500,000 concept plan features a full-size International Basketball Federation (FIBA) basketball court, two regulation three-on-three courts, lights, a shade shelter and up to six basketball standards with backboards, rims and nets.

It will be built between the exercise park and the Zhongshan Ting Chinese pagoda at River Landing.

The concept plan for the outdoor basketball facility in Saskatoon features a full-size International Basketball Federation (FIBA) basketball court and two regulation 3-on-3 courts. (Submitted by the City of Saskatoon)

Linklater said the courts will offer room for everyone to get into the game.

"We want to make sure that there's enough space and opportunity for a lot of younger people and other people who may not necessarily utilize the main courts," he said.

"Usually the side courts are [used by] players who just want to kind of relax or go shoot around and just have some fun with some friends," while "the main course is where a lot of a competition will happen."

The City of Saskatoon is donating the land and will cover operating costs of the facility, said Andrew Roberts, the city's director of recreation and community development.

Annual costs will be around $12,500 once the facility is fully constructed, he said.

The youth sports-focused Jumpstart charity, with the support of local Canadian Tire dealers Dave Deplaedt and Paul Cairns, will provide a gift-in-kind for design and construction of the multi-court facility.

Sports and play are not just about being active, but also about "building stronger individuals, and more inclusive and healthier communities," Scott Fraser, president of Canadian Tire Jumpstart Charities, said in the city's news release.

'It's been a long journey': Linklater

The city says the concept adheres to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission's Call to Action No. 90, which calls for sports policies, programs and initiatives that are inclusive of Indigenous peoples.

Elders, residential school survivors and community members have been consulted about the multi-court facility. 

"It's been a long journey," said Linklater. "When I was a kid playing in the inner-city streets on the outdoor basketball courts, I always wondered why there wasn't a really nice outdoor basketball court here that everybody could really gather at."

Linklater says it was when a new outdoor court was built at his school that he fell in love with basketball.

"It was the outdoor court that inspired me to pick up the basketball. And, you know, I've been very successful, fortunately, throughout my career, so I can only imagine what this is going to do for Saskatoon and future generations of basketball players."

LISTEN | Michael Linklater speaks in June 2021 about plans to build a feature basketball court:

As people in Saskatoon come to terms with child deaths at residential schools across Canada, Michael Linklater explains how he is impacted by the legacy of those schools and how basketball became a huge influence in his life at a young age. 8:19

The details of the updated project will be presented to city council's planning, development and community services committee on Monday, and will go before council later this month.

Linklater said if all goes well, kids could be hitting the courts by this summer.