The NBL Canada expansion team will be owned by Cape Breton native Irwin Simon, the president and CEO of Hain Celestial, a New York-based food company. However, negotiations on a lease deal for the yet-to-be-named team were headed by Toronto-based promoter John Graham.
Today, during its weekly meeting, St. John’s Council approved the terms of a five-year agreement for the operation of a the team. The board of directors for St. John’s Sports & Entertainment Limited (SJSEL), which operates Mile One, had already unanimously approved terms of the deal.
Talks about establishing a minor pro basketball team in St. John’s had been going on since the spring and negotiations had stretched long beyond the league’s published deadlines. In fact in July — after those deadlines had passed — NBL Canada president Victor Frijia stated he would prefer to have seen the deal finalized by the end of that month.
Given we are seven weeks beyond that extended deadline, it’s obvious the league was willing to provide plenty of leeway in order to add another team — especially one with a high-profile and financially strong owner — to its roster.
According to a release from the city, the deal is not expected to result in any increase in the subsidy currently provided to Mile One Centre and the St. John’s Convention Centre. In fact, it suggests it has the potential to be more lucrative than previous agreements, provided the franchise is successful in terms of corporate and public support.
However, the most important long-term clause in the agreement is probably one that has nothing to do with basketball — one that provides the Simon group exclusivity — for an unspecified period of time — to arrange for a hockey franchise to play out of Mile One.
Ticket sales and prices will be announced by the team ownership group in the near future.