Surge won't rest on Year 1, looking to do more — on and off court — in 2024

Tuesday’s Surge 2 The Dome season opener kicks off more and more aspirations of Calgary’s CEBL club in second season

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What do you do for an encore if you’re the Calgary Surge?

A championship this year would be a step up, especially since the city’s pro basketball squad came oh-so close to winning it all last summer, losing in the final to the Scarborough Shooting Stars.

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But … really … the club experienced such a phenomenal debut year — both on and off the court — that the standard has already been set so very high.

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“Sometimes I look at my finger and I might see a ring there just evaporate — and maybe that would have made the first year better,” said Surge vice-chairman and president Jason Ribeiro. “But no … Year 1 was beyond every expectation we had.

“We pinch ourselves every now and again and say, ‘This is kinda pretty cool what we’ve been able to pull together.’”

Year 2 begins Tuesday with a bang — perhaps another pinch-me moment.

It’s the highly anticipated Surge 2 The Dome game, with Calgary’s Canadian Elite Basketball League side hosting the season opener at Scotiabank Saddledome (7 p.m., TSN3).

That means a national televised Battle of Alberta against the arch-rival Edmonton Stingers, in an iconic city sporting venue that’s not — at least not yet — the Surge’s usual basketball home.

The gala game is part of the ‘Year 2 means more’ mantra of Ribeiro and fellow co-founder Usman Tahir Jutt are instilling on the YYC roundball scene.

“I think it is more — more of everything,” said Ribeiro, of how to build off the accomplishments of the franchise’s first year in Calgary. “I think the success of last year defied our initial expectations, and I don’t think we go away a few baskets short of a championship and say, ‘Let’s tear the whole thing up and figure out something new.’

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“It really is to double-down and commit to the values of the story of why we did this in the first place.”

By more, Ribeiro certainly has specifics in mind.

That after the Surge went out in the off-season to talk with the fans so they can better understand what the community wants from them.

“The Calgary Surge are on a mission to reflect, entertain and unite the city through the power of basketball and the arts — and that is different this year,” Ribeiro said. “You could see it in pieces last year, but now it’s etched.

Calgary Surge's Jason Ribeiro, players Rugzy Miller-Moore, Corey Davis Jr and coach Tyrell Vernon in Calgary
(L-R) Calgary Surge’s Jason Ribeiro, players Rugzy Miller-Moore, Corey Davis Jr and coach Tyrell Vernon in Calgary on Tuesday, May 14, 2024. The team plays its first home game on May 21. Jim Wells/Postmedia Jim Wells/Postmedia

“And I think that’s going to be a very clarifying force for us this season.”

The Surge wants more partnerships with philanthropic organizations year-round.

They want more basketball camps during 2024.

They intend to get closer to post-secondary institutions during the calendar year.

And the team wants to bring more kids to games — like the thousands that made their way to WinSport last summer — by way of continued programs and partnerships with city organizations.

Case in point, last Wednesday’s ‘Be Well’ initiative, which saw the club partner with the Calgary Board of Education to bring Grade 7 and 8 students from across the city to WinSport for the team’s intrasquad game as part of training camp.

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“We want more kids in the stands through our programs,” Ribeiro said. “And we want more accolades on the court — that’s a high bar there after last year, but we’re not satisfied.

“And we want more entertainment and more audience share — that’s why we’re doing this game at the Dome.”

And they’ll do it at the Dome with their players dressed in Calgary 88’s jerseys.

Remember that pro team back from 1988-92, playing in the unique World Basketball League?

The Surge do.

“After a storybook Year 1, it’s how do we pay homage and how do we honour the fact that we’re standing on a lot of shoulders,” Ribeiro said. “Even though the 88’s tenure was brief and a bit wonky in terms of height requirements, the growth of the game has just exploded from a credibility perspective and also just the outside impact it has in communities across Canada, so here’s an opportunity to talk about that there was basketball here.

“If we can take a little bit of time to honour that legacy, we’re going to do that. So we’re looking forward to that.”

And a whole lot more come Tuesday night at the Dome.

“Keep your eyes peeled on Tuesday,” continued Ribeiro. “Because I think for this little upstart organization that didn’t exist a year-and-a-half ago, we’re going to turn some heads with thousands of people there. And it’s not just the number, it’s moreso the make-up of it. Maybe it’s folks that don’t go to the Dome that often or maybe they’re rediscovering a legacy facility of ours, and the Surge is what’s compelling them to go.

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“And then I think you’re going to see thousands and thousands of kids, who at this heightened moment — the season opener, on the wings of the CEBL growing and the national team doing what it’s doing — have their first experience with basketball thanks to the generous support of donors.

“And I think we’re going to be putting on a hell of a show that not only communicates who we are as the Surge but what Calgary is to the rest of the country when it’s broadcast live on TSN.”

So the encore then for the Surge?

More and more and more of what made them successful last year.

A fine idea, it would seem.

After all, they’ve got a solid base from which to build.

“What I think really made us punch above our weight was that we were laser-focused,” added Ribeiro. “We were laser-focused on our community values. We were laser-focused on our brand and doing something different in terms of apparel and our connection to the arts. And we were really really committed to winning.

“Calgary deserves a team that wins. And while we can’t guarantee that — and I hope I could — what I can guarantee that every decision has been made with winning in mind for this great city.”

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