The head of the Canadian Elite Basketball League (CEBL) says the Hamilton Honey Badgers’ permanent move to Brampton was not only necessary but an opportunity “gifted” to the franchise by a city that’s produced NBA talent.
CEBL commissioner Mike Morreale admitted the primary reason for the departure was news the rehabilitation for FirstOntario Centre would displace its current sports tenants for two seasons due to the scope of the project.
But he also said a move to Brampton was a “tremendous opportunity” in that the CEBL was given the chance to relocate the team to a “growth city.”
“It happens to be probably the top one or two places in all of Canada that produces Canadian basketball power. It is ripe with talent,” Morreale told 900 CHML’s Good Morning Hamilton.
“So we knew inevitably that we would like to go to Brampton.”
Tristan Thompson, Anthony Bennett and Tyler Ennis are just a few examples of names that have made their way from Brampton to the world’s top league, the NBA.
Work on FirstOntario Centre, expected to take about 20 months according to Hamilton Urban Precinct Entertainment Group (HUPEG), is still the number one reason for the Honey Badgers’ exit.
The team was notified, along with the OHL’s Bulldogs, Nov. 11 that they would need to seek alternative accommodations for two seasons while an upgrade project is completed.
The potential scenario of the Honey Badgers players having to play out-of-market for two years would make that prospect simply unworkable in the CEBL’s eyes.
Morreale said that the timeline and the fact the team has only had an opportunity to play 14 home games since arriving in the city in 2019, mostly due to restrictions during the COVID-19 pandemic, would make it harder for the franchise to “become part of the fabric of the community.”
“You can’t have one foot in the door and one foot out because you have to jump into the market,” Morreale explained.
“So that that put us in the position to say, okay, well, that’s a long, long time.”
The commissioner said there were no alternative venues in Hamilton that met the league’s technical requirements, which typically include amenities for food and beverage services and proper playing surfaces.
The league boss is not ruling out the possibility of once again expanding to Hamilton once the FirstOntario renovations are completed, but says how that development turns out will be key for any potential return.
He suggests “very little communication” from the developers has the league weighing the risks of operating in Hamilton.
“That’s the big asterisk and that’s a big question mark, when will this renovation will be done,” Morreale said.
“You can say two years, but historically speaking, nothing’s really gone to plan in the city when it comes to the major projects.”
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