Winnipeg to join Canadian Elite Basketball League
Read this article for free:
Already have an account? Log in here »
To continue reading, please subscribe:
Monthly Digital Subscription
$4.75 per week*
- Enjoy unlimited reading on winnipegfreepress.com
- Read the E-Edition, our digital replica newspaper
- Access News Break, our award-winning app
- Play interactive puzzles
*Billed as $19.00 plus GST every four weeks. Cancel anytime.
Pro basketball is coming to Winnipeg.
The Canadian Elite Basketball League, a fledgling professional circuit established in 2017, is expected to announce next week it is expanding to the Manitoba capital in time for the 2023 season.
The franchise, believed to be nicknamed the Seabears and owned by a group led by local businessman David Asper, will play at the University of Manitoba’s Investors Group Athletic Centre.
“We have been working on a Winnipeg team for some time,” said CEBL commissioner Mike Morreale in a text to the Free Press Saturday. “I can’t confirm for 2023 at this point.”
CEBL teams play 20 regular-season games from May to August following by a short post-season, meaning there would be only minimal scheduling conflicts with university basketball and volleyball teams that normally use IGAC during the school year.
A lease agreement for the 3,200-seat venue is expected to include renovations to upgrade and modernize the facility, which was opened in 1998 and hosted events during the 1999 Pan American Games.
Morreale told the FP earlier this year he expected his league to expand to Winnipeg by 2024, adding he had engaged in talks with three potential local ownership groups — including 50 Below Sports + Entertainment, owners of the WHL’s Winnipeg Ice.
Prompted perhaps by delays that 50 Below has encountered in building a planned 4,500-seat arena for its WHL team, Asper has taken the lead. Morreale declined comment on questions about ownership.
The U of M secured improvements from the Ice worth in excess of $1 million at Wayne Fleming Arena when the WHL franchise was moved from Cranbrook, B.C., to Winnipeg for the 2019-20 season. A similar arrangement with the CEBL team could be in the works for IGAC.
The CEBL prefers to put its teams in mid-sized arenas to create intimacy for a better fan experience and so playing at the U of M would be considered a short-term solution.
In August, the league approved relocation of the Guelph Nighthawks to Calgary where the franchise was renamed the Surge.
The CEBL’s other franchises include: Edmonton Stingers; Hamilton Honey Badgers; Montreal Alliance; Newfoundland Growlers (St. John’s, N.L.); Niagara River Lions (St. Catharines, Ont.); Ottawa Blackjacks; Saskatchewan Rattlers (Saskatoon); Scarborough (Ont.) Shooting Stars; and Vancouver Bandits (Langley, B.C.).
The CEBL emphasizes Canadian content. Only three Americans are permitted on each 14-man roster, with a minimum of six homegrown players, one international player per team and one U Sports player.
Another attractive feature for potential franchise owners is an $8,000 per game salary cap for each team.
Mike has been working on the Free Press sports desk since 2003.