League folds Newfoundland Growlers basketball team due to arena issues

The Newfoundland Growlers made their debut in the Canadian Elite Basketball League in June but now the league is shutting down the franchise. (Growlersbball/Twitter - image credit)
The Newfoundland Growlers made their debut in the Canadian Elite Basketball League in June but now the league is shutting down the franchise. (Growlersbball/Twitter - image credit)

After just one season in the Canadian Elite Basketball League, the Newfoundland Growlers basketball team is folding.

The CEBL announced in a news release Friday that it's suspending operations of its franchise in St. John's because the team's home arena, the Field House at Memorial University, lacks the amenities required by a pro team.

"We would love to play in Newfoundland, but we need to play in a major spectator facility," CEBL commissioner Mike Morreale said in the release.

"We appreciate the efforts of all involved to host games during the 2022 season at the Field House at Memorial University, but the lack of amenities required by a professional league at the level of the CEBL have proven to be untenable."

Glenn Stanford, president of Deacon Sports and Entertainment, which ran the team, says the CEBL owns the franchise, so it was ultimately their decision to cease operations in St. John's and place new teams in other cities.

"Obviously we're disappointed by it, but we understand the decision that the CEBL made to revoke the franchise.They are expanding into some big markets — they just announced Winnipeg, Calgary, they're playing in Toronto, Montreal, Edmonton, Vancouver," he said.

"Despite the best intentions of all of us here, and certainly the staff at the university to accommodate the team at the Field House, it was simply not a venue designed to host pro basketball, so we support their decision."

Lukas Wall/CBC
Lukas Wall/CBC

Deacon Sports and Entertainment announced in November 2021 that the team would become the CEBL's 10th franchise as part of a league expansion.

At the time, the team signed a three-year contract with Memorial University to play at the Field House, a contract that also included upgrades to the facility and money for scholarships and fundraising for MUN's sports programs.

The company, led by owner Dean MacDonald, had previously tried to purchase the St. John's Edge of the National Basketball League of Canada after the team was left without a home venue, but the deal fell through.

Stanford said the Field House was meant to be a short-term home, as the building's low capacity hampered opportunity for ticket revenue and there were limited opportunities for sponsorship and selling food and drinks.

He said the building's dressing rooms weren't up to snuff for a pro league, with one having been converted from a boardroom into a dressing room.

Terry Roberts/CBC
Terry Roberts/CBC

Meanwhile, the better-equipped Mary Browns Centre in downtown St. John's is already occupied by the city's other fledgling basketball team, the Newfoundland Rogues, who will play as part of The Basketball League this year

Stanford said Deacon Sports and Entertainment isn't discussing getting the team into the Mary Browns Centre at this point.

"We're concentrating on hockey right now. The Newfoundland Rogues have exclusivity at the Mary Browns Centre, that's what we have to deal with," he said.

"We either look for other alternatives in trying to get the CEBL back, or there's no future for it here, one or the other."

Stanford said they're now headed back to the drawing board in hopes of getting a CEBL team back to St. John's at some point, and the league's commissioner hasn't ruled out a return, either.

"We thank the fans for their support. If the opportunity presents itself to resume operations in St. John's under better circumstances in the future, we are open to giving that every consideration," said Morreale.

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