There may be another professional sports team coming to the GTA.
Graeme Roustan, who is the man behind the approved $325 million arena to be built in Markham, thinks that bringing in a Canadian National Basketball League team would be profitable for the city.
The CEO of GTA Sports and Entertainment (GTASE) has been speaking with NBL Canada’s president and CEO Andre Levingston through emails and phone callS for the past two weeks.
“I think it’s [NLB team in Markham] a product at a different price point and it’s more affordable for the average person to go to an NBL Canada game,” Roustan said. “So it’s a different market and it gives Markham the ability to have a team of their own.”
Roustan also thinks that there is a different fan base for every level of sport that will help a basketball team in Markham thrive.
“There are people who love to go watch professional basketball like the NBA and then there are others who like the semi-pro or the professional teams at the next level below it.
“For example, in Toronto, the Marlies play in the American Hockey League and there’s hockey in the international league(s). So there are fans at every level that represent different markets.”
The NBL of Canada is a new professional basketball loop founded last year by Levingston with the help of chief operating officer Ian McCarthy. The league is entering its second season starting in November and has been recruiting players from all over North America.
Seven teams (London, Moncton, Quebec, St. John, Oshawa, Summerside and Halifax) are member and Levingston plans to expand the league with more teams, with Markham being a possibility.
“I think it’s fantastic,” Levingston said over the phone in Halifax where he is also the president and CEO of the Halifax Rainmen.
“It just shows the mageration of what we put together as a professional league in Canada to have individuals like Graeme seek us out and want to be a part of what we do.”
If the NBL decides to bring a team to Markham, they will be playing in the 20,000 seat arena that GTASE hopes to begin building late this fall.
The GTASE team was put together specifically for the project. In August, Roustan submitted his plan to Markham which includes the design of the building, traffic study and sustainability in order to receive approval for construction to get started.
Markham council voted to go forward with this idea in April to develop a state-of-the-art NHL-sized facility that will be located near Warden Ave. and Highway 407. The building will generate profit from multiple events such as concerts and sports teams.
Even though a team in Markham is a possibility, Levingston does not want too many in Ontario.
“We know that as a business man, Graeme is very successful,” he said. “His track record has proven that but we still have to do our due diligence.”
“I’ve never been to Markham but we have several teams in the area that we are looking to come on board potentially for next season.
“But we want to make sure that we don’t have a team that is too close of proximity because we want them to be successful.”
Levingston also said that Mississauga is a top choice for now and that there are many important factors that play into the decision of choosing which city to put a team in.
They have to make sure the owner is reliable and that there would be support from the residents and city as a whole.
“We know that Graeme definitely meets that criteria,” Levingston said. “His business resume is impeccable so I don’t foresee an issue there.
“Markham is far enough from Toronto to have success. But again, we already have a team in Oshawa and London so we have to make sure that if we did make the decision of putting a team in Markham, that it could be viable and it wouldn’t interfere with attendance in the NBA cities where there is already a team.”
The two businessmen will meet in-person for the first time on Nov. 3 in London when the Lightning play host to Levingston’s Halifax Rainmen to discuss the issue further.