"There's so many nets around the city that you drive by and there's no mesh up, or they're tattered, and you can't really use them," said Reed Clarke, president and CEO of the Canadian Elite Basketball League franchise. "Being a kid who grew up playing on outdoor basketball hoops … I know how important that is to have an actual fresh net up there."
Fresh Nets replaces netting on public basketball courts. Clarke has operated the program as a private citizen for the past couple of years, working with sponsors and the City of Edmonton to install around 300 nets on city-owned courts in 2021 and 2022.
"I just had a ladder in the back of my car, and I was going to on my lunch hour and my breaks, and I was putting up the nets myself," Clarke told Taproot. "I was like, 'God, how cool would it be if I could bring that to the Edmonton Stingers and we (could) … use our exposure as a professional basketball team in this market and make it into something really big?'"
Clarke joined the Stingers — whose season kicks off on May 28 — in November 2022. He has now accelerated the program via a partnership with the EFCL, which provides a list of courts and access to nets. This year, Fresh Nets plans to install 500 nets in the official Stingers colours of navy and gold on community league courts.
"I'm guessing that is going to handle all the community league outdoor hoops, and if not, I've got some extra ones," Clarke said. "And some of these other courts that may not be technically allowed by whatever governing bodies, we might do a few of those," he added.
Rather than Clarke's ladder-in-a-car approach, Fresh Nets is employing some full-time "Fresh Netters" this year. They'll be paid through a combination of sponsorship and investment by the Stingers. "Out of 500, I'd like to get 250 completed by mid-May," Clarke said.
Fresh Nets was originally called Fresh Hoops, which has since become its own entity working on full-court restorations. Clarke said that program is also being absorbed by the Stingers, and there will be a third arm coming soon called Fresh Kicks, working to provide kids with basketball shoes.
Photo: Many community league basketball courts have hoops but no nets, a deficiency the Edmonton Stingers are looking to address this year. (Supplied)