In the face of more than a century’s weathering, the World’s Oldest Basketball Court, nestled within the quiet town of St. Stephen, New Brunswick, is in the lap of a much-deserved rejuvenation. Having first seen action on its original hardwood on October 17, 1893, this venerable old court finds its roots in the legacy of Lyman Walker Archibald, a Nova Scotian who first brought basketball to the Maritimes not two years after participating in the very first game of its kind — a game directed by his compatriot, Dr. James Naismith, in Springfield, M.A.
Tyler Slipp, the executive director of Basketball New Brunswick, relishes the rich narrative of discovery and legacy imbued in this story. In 2010, following a fire, the court was rediscovered and since then, has sparked a renewed commitment within the town to safeguard its iconic hardwood’s heritage.
The court and the precious slice of history it holds is destined for a new life as the Canadian National Basketball Experience Museum. Tom Liston, a board member with the World’s Oldest Basketball Court Inc., relishes the chance to reframe New Brunswick’s somewhat undervalued reputation in the eyes of visitors. At the helm of this transformative project is CambridgeSeven, an architecture and exhibit design firm based out of Cambridge, M.A. It promises to infuse the site with new life in a manner that celebrates its historical worth, having demonstrated such capacity through several esteemed projects, including a multi-million dollar renovation of the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame.
Timothy Mansfield, principal for the project, senses the allure of working with the world’s oldest basketball court and the potential it holds. The building itself, in its originality, decadence, and raw potential, is the project’s greatest asset.
Despite its milestones, the construction work’s timeline has not been locked in. The objective, however, is clear — open the facility to the public in 2028. Slipp expects this endeavor to boost the province’s enthusiasm for basketball and solidify St. Stephen as a regional hub for the sport. Liston envisions the project as a path to draw global attraction to New Brunswick, even entertaining the notion of the Toronto Raptors possibly holding their training camp there.
The project has invoked a wave of support across Canada and has already seen over a million dollars raised, courtesy of both corporate and individual donors. What started with ‘The Archie,’ an annual golf tournament named after Lyman Archibald, has led to a series of fortunate connections at various levels, including Canada Basketball.
With an estimated cost upwards of $10 million, the project is on a promising start to creating an endearing home for a significant piece of sports history — a tangible testament to the days of yore when basketball first made its mark in the Maritimes.