Now that the 2018-19 season and postseason are complete, the NBA Gatorade League is planning for the upcoming 2019-20 campaign. Next season will see one new venue open, while a new team will join the league as the groundwork is laid for an intriguing arena renovation plan.
When the 2018-19 G League season was getting underway, there were a few new elements to anticipate. The Reno Bighorns had relocated to Stockton and become the Stockton Kings, while the arrival of the Capital City Go-Go—owned by the Washington Wizards—gave the G League its 27th team. In addition, the Go-Go, Delaware Blue Coats, and Rio Grande Valley Vipers were all set to open new arenas.
The 2019-20 NBA G League season will not be quite as active, but there are still a few new developments to anticipate. After years of planning, the College Park Skyhawks will open the new Gateway Center @ College Park. Located in the Atlanta suburb of College Park, the new arena (rendering above) will be designed with a seating capacity of 3,500 for basketball, with that figure expanding to 5,000 for events such as concerts and convocations.
Technically, the Skyhawks will mark a rebrand and relocation of the G League’s Erie BayHawks. The Atlanta Hawks are shifting that club to College Park after it spent the past two seasons at Erie Insurance Arena, but G League action will make another short-term stop in Erie next season. As was announced last fall, the New Orleans Pelicans will launch a new incarnation of the BayHawks next season that will play in Erie before relocating to a renovated Legacy Arena in Birmingham, AL as early as 2022.
The Pelicans had spent considerable time scouting locations in the Southeast for their planned G League team, before eventually turning to Birmingham. The $123 million renovation of Legacy Arena is being planned as part of a larger Birmingham-Jefferson Convention Complex project that includes a new outdoor facility, the recently minted Protective Stadium. The outdoor stadium will host college football for the University of Alabama at Birmingham and other events, while the Pelicans’ G League squad will be one of the main attractions at the renovated Legacy Arena. Originally opening in 1976, Legacy Arena has been used for a variety of purposes over the years, including concerts, minor league hockey, college basketball, and more.
For the G League, the arrival of the Pelicans will mark the circuit’s 28th team. Continued growth has been a dominant theme for the league in recent years, as it fielded just 22 teams as recently as the 2016-17 campaign. Every team is either owned by or under some type of affiliation arrangement with an NBA team, showing commitment on the part of organizations to maintaining the G League as a viable circuit for player development and as a business outlet for expanding the NBA’s presence.
In terms of facilities and teams, the G League has certainly grown in recent years. That trend will continue next season, with Gateway Center @ College Park marking the league’s newest arena and the Pelicans entering the league with their own affiliate with an eye toward a newly modernized permanent home in the coming years.
Rendering courtesy Atlanta Hawks.
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