Professional basketball in Cape Breton may not be dead just yet.
On Sunday, Cape Breton Highlanders president and general manager Tyrone Levingston unveiled a plan that if successful would mean a return to the court for the National Basketball League of Canada franchise.
The announcement comes five weeks after the Sydney-based team made public its intent to suspend operations for the 2019-2020 season. Ironically, the Highlanders enjoyed their most successful season last year when they finished with a 19-21 record while qualifying for the playoffs for the first time. The squad finished 15-25 and 12-27 in its first two seasons playing out of Centre 200.
However, the Highlanders have struggled at the box office and last month Levingston told the Cape Breton Post that it would take an estimated additional $250,00 to $300,000, a doubling of last season’s $225,000 budget, to make the team viable.
Hence the new strategy that essentially asks local basketball fans to decide the fate of the franchise.
If the team can sell 1,500 season tickets by next Sunday it will remain a part of the NBL of Canada.
“The future of the team is now in the community’s hands,” said Levingston, in Sunday’s written release.
“We have petitioned the league to allow us the opportunity to demonstrate the community’s commitment to this team and ultimately allow them the chance to determine if they want to see the teams stay here or not.
“We have seven days to determine if we are coming back or not, which is not a lot of time, but I am hopeful that the people on the island will take advantage of this opportunity – to think we have a chance to save this team with community support to fill home court and to continue to compete is incredible and I know we will get there.”
Centre bowl season tickets start at $350 plus tax and can be purchased starting with a $50 deposit. More information is available on the Highlander’s season ticket website at www.ownourfuture.ca.
The Highlanders’ press release attributed the plan to a group of community members and local business people who came together to seek out options to keep the team on the court for the upcoming season and beyond.
The decision to opt out of the league for the 2019-2010 season was made in early June by Levingston and the franchise’s nine other private investors.
Ten teams, including six in Atlantic Canada played in the NBL of Canada last season. The Highlanders played in the Atlantic Division as did Moncton Magic Halifax Hurricanes, Saint John Riptide and the Charlottetown-based Island Storm. The Central Division featured the London Lightning, Sudbury Five, Kitchener-Waterloo Titans, Windsor Express and the St. John’s Edge.