With the newly-revealed Raptors 905 logo are Masai Ujiri, GM, Toronto Raptors; City of Mississauga Mayor Bonnie Crombie; and Malcolm Turner, president, NBA D-League.
Maple Leaf Sports & Entertainment (MLSE) announced it has purchased the NBA’s Toronto Raptors 905 expansion Development League team. The team will play at Mississauga, Ontario, Canada’s Hershey Centre starting this fall.
This will be the first NBA D-League team based outside of the United States.
It cost MLSE about $6 million to land the team, according to SB Nation online sports media. There will be 25 Raptors 905 home games per season.
The D-League, which will now consist of 19 teams, is the top feeder system for the 30-team NBA.
“Having a record 19th team is an important step in the growth process for the NBA D-League, as the league trends toward a 30-for-30 model,” said Malcolm Turner, NBA D-League president. “We’re thrilled to work with the Raptors to bring our unique brand of basketball to Mississauga for opening night in November.”
According to Bobby Webster, vice president of Basketball Management & Strategy for the Toronto Raptors, the deal was initiated in February, when the Raptors met with NBA’s D-League and Turner.
“This was too good of an opportunity for us to pass up,” said Mike Hamilton, executive director of Hershey Centre and SMG Canada. “We feel this region is a basketball hotbed.”
Basketball is currently one of the fastest-growing sports in Canada, with two Canadians, Anthony Bennett and Andrew Wiggins, chosen as Number One NBA draft picks.
“We were in search of a one-to-one affiliate,” said Webster. “Now we have a single, wholly-owned affiliate and can better control what goes on with the team. Also, at the end of the day, we have a development tool for players, coaches and staff.”
In addition to games at the Hershey Centre, the City of Mississauga, MLSE and the Toronto Raptors will partner in providing community-based programming, including local basketball events and outreach initiatives.
“We plan to capitalize and combine interest in basketball with interest in the Raptors,” said Webster. “The D-League is not the NBA or worth millions of dollars, so it’s more about incorporating the team into the local community with appearances, a family-friendly environment and affordable ticket prices.”
No financial details on the potential of the deal or ticket prices have been released.
“We’re analyzing the potential income now and think it will be positive for the arena financially,” said Hamilton. “We expect this team will draw significant numbers.”
Hershey Centre was the former home of the Mississauga Power, a charter member of the National Basketball League of Canada. The team has not yet announced its relocation plans.
“We’re changing 25 dates for 25 dates, but the attendance will be exponentially higher with the Raptors,” said Hamilton. “This relates to added food and beverage sales, sponsorship opportunities and more revenue sources for the arena.”
Jersey sponsorship opportunities will eventually be available, but there were no announcements at press time.
The 6,000-seat Hershey Centre includes a portable FIBA-size basketball court as well as professional video boards.
“Launching a new team and brand [can be a challenge], but everything is lined up, and we expect a positive outcome,” said Hamilton. “The D-League has told us there are a number of North American communities going through the same process that are looking to be in the league, but the Raptors 905 is the only one that will happen this year due to the tight timelines.”
As Canada's sixth largest city, Mississauga is home to 752,000 residents and approximately 54,000 businesses.
The number 905 refers to the area code for cities surrounding downtown Toronto.
“The Raptors want to be a part of the Mississauga community as well as providing a basketball development team,” said Webster. “If the team does well, both sides will come out happy.”
Interviewed for this story: Mike Hamilton, (905) 615-3290; Malcolm Turner, (212) 407-8000; Bobby Webster, (416) 366-3865