For the second time in three years, an application to bring a National Basketball League of Canada team to the Niagara Region has been withdrawn.
The London Free Press is reporting
that an application to place a team in the Niagara Region next season was approved in early 2014 by the league directors. However, the league suffered a “major setback” when the owners of the potential Niagara franchise decided not to join the league.
It was the second time that an application to bring an NBL of Canada team to Niagara has been withdrawn. In early 2012, an unnamed ownership group expressed their desire to bring an expansion franchise to St. Catharines.
However, the group ultimately decided that bringing a pro basketball team to the 75-year-old Jack Gatecliff Arena was not feasible. The group was expected to pursue an NBL of Canada team for St. Catharines once the new 5,000 seat Meridian Centre opens in the fall of 2014.
Then this past December, Michael Skrtich and Richard Petko were reportedly working on a proposal to bring an NBL of Canada team to the Frank Doherty arena in Thorold. However, it is not known if Skrtich and Petko was the same group that earlier attempted to bring a team to St. Catharines.
In either case, the longevity of the three year old league is greatly in doubt. The Free Press reported that the league will be “fighting for its life” in the offseason as some teams have been unable to make their payments to the league, resulting in an “empty treasury”.
According to the article, SportsLive 24, the company that provided online production for NBL games, is no longer supplying that service; there are rumours about league referees being owed money; the owner of the London Lightning franchise has asked for the resignation of league commissioner Paul Riley; and the owner of the Ottawa SkyHawks has requested a review of Riley’s job performance as well as a review of the entire NBL front office.
In one of the more bizarre incidents in the league’s short history, Morris Dalla Costa, a columnist for the London Free Press, was ejected from the WFCU Centre in Windsor prior to an NBL of Canada playoff game between London and Windsor on April 1. Apparently, the owner of the Windsor team had Dalla Costa ejected because he felt that the reporter was not covering the Windsor team or the league in a fair manner.
Given the league’s past and shaky future, it’s not surprising that the Niagara group withdrew their bid for a team, especially considering that in the past, the price for an expansion franchise was in the $300,000 range.
(Photo courtesy of the London Lightning)