While basketball is a big draw in the United States, it is not quite as popular in Great Britain. Still, it exists, and some of its fans are very dedicated — and it makes for a fun winter outing, with competition fall through spring and. Visitors in search of professional men's basketball play should look to the British Basketball League. Four venues and teams stand out when attending games (which, as with many sports in the UK, are often called matches). It's easy to order tickets in advance online or by phone. And if some of those accents sound familiar, it's because many of the league's best players are from the U.S.
Chester (Cheshire): Northgate Arena
The Northgate Arena at Victoria Road in Chester is home to the Cheshire Jets of northwestern England. Home games are held on weekends and usually start at 7:30 p.m. Sunday games tend to start at 5:30 p.m. Adults pay £10 for admission, while children's tickets cost £6. Family admission, for two adults and three children, generally costs £30. It is important to note that the arena is also a fitness center, open to the public between 8 a.m. and 10:30 p.m. on weekends, which means parking may be scarce. Basketball league fans worried by the small venue need only wait until about 2014; the Ellesmere Port Pioneer reports that a new 1,500-seat arena for the Cheshire Jets is in the works.
Guildford (Surrey): Surrey Sports Park
Owned by the University of Surrey in Guildford, the Surrey Sports Park on Richard Meyjes Road is home to the Surrey Heat. http://surreyheat.com/ Formerly known as the Guildford Heat, this team in south-central England is one of the league's best. Tickets for home games cost between £6 and £15. Games start either at 3 p.m. or 7 p.m. Since the parking lot extension is opening ahead of time, there are now 180 additional parking slots available for visitors.
In northeastern England, the Durham Wildcats call the Newton Aycliffe Leisure Centre their home turf. Located on Beveridge Arcade in Newton Aycliffe, County Durham, the venue uses traditional bleacher seating. This public sports complex lets the team, one of the newest in the league, use the basketball court for home games. Matches start at either 4 p.m. on Sundays or 7 p.m. on Saturdays. Doors open an hour before tip-off. Ticket costs range from £4 for children to £6 for adults.
Liverpool (Merseyside): Knowsley Leisure & Culture Park
Home games for the Mersey Tigers take place at the Knowsley Leisure & Culture Park on Longview Drive in Liverpool. Fans used to know the team as the Everton Tigers. Another public sports complex, this venue seats a relatively small number of fans. Home games take place on weekends, with Friday games starting at 7:30 p.m. Tickets range in cost from £5 for youngsters to £10 for adults. Family tickets for two adults and two children cost £25. Although the number of attending fans is limited, the energy in the bleachers easily compares to sold-out games at the larger arenas.
by Sylvia Cochran
Top: The Mersey Tigers (in orange) beat the Newcastle Eagles (in black) for the 2011 British Basketball League championship title. (photo by hitthatswitch via Flickr)
Right: David Aliu plays for the Mersey Tigers (photo by Jdgmedia via Wikimedia Commons)