LEWISTON — Calling the city “unreal and unpacked,” the owners of a new women’s basketball expansion team announced Wednesday they had picked Lewiston as the team’s home and the Lewiston Armory as the site of home games.

The logo of the L-A Maples women’s basketball team, a franchise of the Women’s American Basketball Association, that will begin play at the Lewiston Armory in July 2022.

When co-owners Josh Brister and Jen Buchanan visited the Lewiston Armory and took in the rest of the city, they said they felt the area would be the perfect venue for the Lewiston-Auburn Maples, a semiprofessional women’s basketball team.

Beginning in July 2022, the L-A Maples will be the 35th expansion team of the Women’s American Basketball Association, playing home games Sundays at the armory.

“When people look at this area, they say, ‘Lewiston-Auburn,’” Brister said in an interview Wednesday. “Once we got there, Lewiston specifically stuck out to us because, like we have told people, the community is unreal and unpacked, so once we got to Lewiston and walked into the Lewiston Armory, which sells itself, it was a no-brainer to be at 65 Central Ave.

“It is a great venue to play basketball. It is a great venue to build community. The location, the community. Central Maine is a hotbed for women’s basketball. People don’t talk about that, but there is something to that, and we are going to try and tap into that.”

The City Council on Tuesday approved a five-year lease with the team, with the season to feature between eight and 12 home games, with the possibility of playoff games into the fall. The lease agreement stipulates the Maples pay to rent the facility, plus $10,000 annually toward the armory’s capital improvement fund.

The co-owners spoke to Lewiston officials Tuesday, saying games would be family entertainment, with affordable ticket prices.

The team is also expected to have a separate nonprofit organization that would conduct community events, raising funds for local organizations.

The L-A Maples Foundation has already planned events centered on mental health, health and wellness, and a golf tournament with proceeds going to local organizations like Safe Voices, New Beginnings and more.

In a Wednesday news release from the city, Mayor Mark Cayer said: “What a great offering to attract folks to Lewiston. The presence of the L-A Maples is another boost to the vitality of our community and certainly adds to our appeal for economic development and continued growth.”

An aerial photo of the Lewiston Armory, left from June 30, 2021. A woman’s professional basketball team will be calling it home next season. Russ Dillingham/Sun Journal

City Administrator Heather Hunter noted in the announcement: “I am delighted to have the L-A Maples call the city of Lewiston home. It’s such a wonderful opportunity to enhance the sports tourism available in Lewiston, provide role models for our youth, and engage our community.”

Brister, who is originally from Louisiana, works for Cheverus High School in Portland as the director of facilities and lives in the Portland area. He said the teams will be paid and he will bring in the most talented players to compete in Lewiston.

“Our president of basketball, Jim Seavey, who has been around a very long time, he is going to bring in the best and most talented women to help the L-A Maples win a championship,” Brister said. “That could be someone from Lewiston-Auburn. It could be someone from Los Angeles, California.”

“Josh and I didn’t start this to get rich,” Buchanan said. “This is about basketball, but also helping women’s sports. It is also about helping Lewiston-Auburn. So also on top of the L-A Maples, we started the L-A Maples Foundation, and we are going to have several events. We are not stuffy owners sitting up in a box and telling people what to do.”

Brister said he has always liked the area and believes women’s basketball will flourish here, in part because of the success of Central Maine Community College’s women’s basketball program and general enthusiasm locally for women’s basketball. The CMCC Mustangs were USCAA national champions in 2017 and 2019, and national finalists in 2014, 2018 and 2020.

“We are looking for women finishing college or looking to expand their careers,” Buchanan said. “Maybe they want to play overseas, but they have been out of the game a little bit. Or they are out of college and want to continue playing.”

Buchanan, who is from Hudson, New Hampshire, is a school safety officer.

“We have girls that we are looking at that have come back from overseas,” she said. “There are women in this league that have played for teams in the country that have gone on to play for the WNBA. There are scouts watching these games, watching these women. They are signing contracts midseason, end of season to go on and further their careers.”

Brister said he looks at the WABA as a sort of a junior league without the WNBA’s stardom and popularity.

He added he is not concerned about attracting fans and filling the armory’s seats. He said putting the team in Lewiston has been in the planning stages for 14 months.

“So we have been on this process a long time,” Brister said. “This just didn’t happen last night. Again, when you talk about the Lewiston Armory — only a 600-seat venue — it is nicely tucked between Bates (College) and St. Mary’s (Regional Medical Center). (Filling the seats) doesn’t worry us.

“We haven’t thought about that aspect. We are doing so much other stuff in terms of building community … and being there. Like merchandise is already in the city and people already have stickers. The buzz is there. If the basketball team portion of it takes shape the way we hope, seating will be at a premium to get in.

“We want this to be a team that Lewiston gets behind. We are not going to do it by ourselves. However you get the chance to be involved with the Maples as part of the Lewiston community, take that chance because this is Lewiston’s team.”

Brister said the Maples will host teams from Atlanta, New York, New Jersey and more. He said over the next few months, the team will finish with singing players and developing its schedule.


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