The newly renamed London Lions basketball franchise has moved into Croydon’s Crystal Palace National Sports Centre.
After 15 years of competing in Milton Keynes, the British Basketball League outfit took the decision to move town and change their name, after failing to secure a permanent venue. A deal was struck for the side to move into the Copper Box at the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park, an arena used for handball during the Olympics and goalball during the Paralympics, in September 2013.
However, as the Copper Box’s 6,000-seater arena will not be converted for basketball use until the 2013/2014 season, the Lions have begun this season at the Crystal Palace National Sports Centre, just outside of Croydon.
The deal was brokered by the Lions franchise in conjunction with Greenwich Leisure Limited, the non-profit community organisation Reach & Teach Sports Network and the London Legacy Development Corporation.
GLL’s statement was backed up by Nhamo Shire of Reach & Teach, who said: “We’re committed to the growth and development of the game at the grassroots level and support clubs throughout London in a number of ways to help increase participation. Adding the London Lions to the landscape should help elevate our efforts in getting more people playing, watching, coaching and getting involved with our sport.”
Lions’ chief executive and head coach Vince Macaulay said of the move: “Our partnership with GLL meant we could have gone to any GLL facility, obviously the Copper Box will be our home from September 2013 but Palace is steeped in the history of basketball and so was a natural fit. We could not have been better received; the people of London have clearly been fired up by sport and the Olympics and have embraced the team wholeheartedly.”
The team have played eight games at Crystal Palace and are currently in sixth position in the BBL.
For London Lions centre Adrien Sturt this is an exciting time to be part of the franchise. Talking to Eastlondonlines he said: “Moving into London has been great. It is unfortunate for those fans from Milton Keynes who have followed the club for a number of years, but it is great for the BBL to have a team in the capital.
“I have only been in the country a short while, but I have heard a little about the history of the game in the Crystal Palace area for quite a while and we get to take a team back into that area.
The Lions will be hoping to use the spirit of Olympic legacy to convert more young fans. They have handed out over 1000 free tickets to schools in the Croydon area and will soon be sending out players to coach in the community.
The team next plays against the Plymouth Raiders December 7, at 19:30.