Calgary’s newest professional sports team — the Canadian Elite Basketball League’s Calgary Surge — held a community-building celebration on Thursday as the team ramps up towards its inaugural season opener.
The Surge takes on the Edmonton Stingers on May 27, at WinSport.
For weeks, the Canadian Elite Basketball League team has been holding events in all corners of the city, working to connect basketball fans directly with the team and fostering a sense of connection to Calgary sport.
That, according to Surge vice-chairman and president Jason Ribero, is a fulfillment of a promise the team made when they launched last year.
“This is the only way we could do this. I mean that genuinely,” he said.
“The only way we could do it is if kids were at the heart of it. If bridging the divides and community were at the heart of it. If we were doing the painstaking things that didn’t necessarily show up right away as the things a basketball team should do, but certainly as a new sports entity in this community.”
Part of that commitment made in October 2022 was to ensure that fans felt recognized, and that communities that have been overlooked in the city, such as parts of northeast Calgary, would receive ample attention and events outside of the game.
Ribero called the Genesis Centre, the location where the team held their celebration, the defacto home away from home for Calgary Surge.
“As a longtime advocate for sport, I know that this community sometimes can be overlooked. And we want to make sure that right from the start we see them, we hear them and we’re going to show up day in and day out for this community,” Ribeiro said.
The team invited dignitaries from across the city, and more locally northeast Calgary to the event. Attendees included Coun. Courtney Walcott, Calgary Forest Lawn MP Jasraj Singh Hallan, and the Akram Jomaa girl’s basketball team.
Coun. Walcott said that he had already bought his tickets for the season opener—a long time ago, he said.
“Honestly, I came here because I think basketball is a sport that’s growing in this city more than anybody realizes,” Walcott said.
“Having a city team like this is so significant to me, and it’s something that I want to support in every way I can.”
He, like many of the other attendees during the evening, were snapping up Surge merchandise.
“I just signed off on a bunch of new mockups because the demand has been overwhelming,” said Ribeiro.
“What we’re seeing is that people are responding to this being a symbol that they can be prideful to wear and that again resonates with that concept of being more than just the basketball team—and it looks good, and it’s slick.”
Team makes announcements for front office staff
Among the celebrations were announcements of additions to the Surge’s front office staff.
Former pro basketball player Shane James, who also founded the Under Armour Canada Elite AAU basketball league, will be the team’s new general manager. He previously served as the Guelph Nighthawks’ assistant GM.
James said that the most important thing for the team would be putting out a product that people enjoy watching.
“It’s going to be a fun environment. The arena that we’re playing in is suited for a team like ours… and it’s just going to be a wonderful experience for everyone who comes and watches,” James said.
“Because we’re a new franchise, it takes time to get things in place, like accommodations and things of that sort. But I think we got the right team that has a lot of experience in this business, and they’re gonna do a terrific job putting it all together.”
Former head coach for the Canadian Men’s Basketball Team and Canadian Basketball Hall of Fame member Steve Konchalski will be acting as a senior advisor to the team.
Ribero said that the team would be making further announcements prior to May about the signing of the coach, and the team’s players.
“We’ve committed to a very exciting, a very fast-paced type of basketball… and this should not surprise that we’re going to be a fast team, we’re going to be an exciting team,” he said.
Although he wasn’t ready to share some of the names of the players, he said that Calgarians can expect to see them at events and committing to community work throughout the season.
Zeno Renewables announced as title sponsor
Calgary Surge’s title sponsor, Zeno Renewables, was also at Thursday’s event with a pair of the company’s fully electric Ford F-150 trucks.
Ribero during his speech to The Genesis Centre crowd said that he was proud to introduce them as not only sponsor partners to the Surge but also friends.
Zeno co-CEO Gursh Bal said that partnering with the Calgary Surge was a natural choice for the company.
“It’s all about the community, and the one thing that we felt that Surge is going to change is the way that sports integrate into the community,” he said.
“We have some amazing sports teams, not just in Calgary but across the province, whether it be in hockey or football, and we feel like this is a new flavour and it’s another opportunity to show how awesome a place that Alberta is and how awesome a place Calgary is becoming.”
He said that as a business they have been involved in a variety of community outreach endeavours, such as community cleanups and sustainability initiatives. And because of that, partnering with a socially conscious organization was important for them.
“Guys like Usman and Jason, they’re huge in that stuff, and they really have a clear vision,” Bal said.
Tickets for the Calgary Surge season are on sale. Visit their website for more information.