August 21, 2016
ST. LOUIS – The Midwest Professional Basketball Association is returning to U.S. Cellular Coliseum in Bloomington, Illinois, after a one-year hiatus.
The Lima (Ohio) Express franchise will relocate to Bloomington for the 2017 season, which tips off in January. The league will also host its 2017 postseason championship tournament there at the end of March. The MPBA held its inaugural postseason tournament at U.S. Cellular Coliseum in 2015 after the Bloomington Flex played one season in the MPBA. The 2016 tournament was held in Pontiac, Illinois.
“The plan was always to return to Bloomington and U.S. Cellular Coliseum,” said C. Edward “Ed” Schumer, commissioner and chief executive officer for the MPBA. “We didn’t think it would happen quite this soon, but the new management team at VenuWorks initiated the discussion about a team after we approached them about having the tournament there again.”
“We are excited to have the MPBA back in Bloomington for the 2017 season,” said Curtis Webb, executive director for U.S. Cellular Coliseum. “VenuWorks is committed to bringing quality sports and entertainment to Bloomington, and this is just another step in moving this venue forward into its second decade of operation.”
The Bloomington team will be a familiar one to MPBA followers, as the Lima Express will be relocating to Central Illinois. Lima played in the MPBA in 2016 after its two years in the Premier Basketball League, in which they were opponents of the Flex in 2014.
Express owner and general manager Lewis Shine will remain involved with the MPBA, but will no longer own the club.
“I love Lima, and we had wonderful fans,” said Shine, “But it became apparent the finances just weren’t sustainable there any longer. I'm grateful for all the support from fans and sponsors, and the opportunities we had to reach out to kids and families. I think we made a positive impact, and ultimately, that's what we were setting out to do.”
The Express will play their home opener on January 25, and the league will hold the tournament at the Coliseum the last week in March.
The team’s Facebook page is Bloomington Express Professional Basketball, and the Express can be found on Twitter at @MPBAExpress. The addition of Bloomington gives the MPBA five teams in Central Illinois: Champaign Swarm, Eureka Blaze, Jacksonville Generals, Pontiac 66ers and Bloomington Express. Additional franchise-related announcements will be made in the coming weeks.
The MPBA launched in 2015 with six teams, and played the 2016 season with seven teams: the Swarm, 66ers, Express, Windy City Groove, St. Louis RiverSharks, Gateway Steam, and eventual champion Chicago Blues. Information about the league can be found at theMPBA.com.