Driving onto Mitchell Island, you’d never suspect that there is a basketball facility nestled in the westernmost part of the island. The island itself sits between Vancouver and Richmond, and is a place that is primarily used for industrial purposes. From the outside, Union Basketball doesn’t look like much - you might expect the inside to be small, maybe have one small court, maybe some benches. Once you walk inside though, it feels like you’ve entered a different world. The warehouse-turned-basketball facility stretches far back and holds a lobby area, two full court gyms, and a fitness area. It’s hard to believe that such a high-class facility lives on a small island most people have never been to in the Lower Mainland. How did Union Basketball come to be? What was the inspiration for the facility? Founder Nate Lui shares some of his thoughts about the inspiration and motivation behind starting his own basketball facility, why he fell in love with basketball, and what makes Union a special place for veteran players and for people new to the game.
Why did you fall in love with Basketball?
It was the first sport I loved! I remember loving the flow of a basketball game on both offense and defense. The way players needed to work off each other to create scoring opportunities and the different ways you could handle the ball and score. On defense the challenge of individual defense as well as the beauty of team defense. I’ve been hooked for over 30 years!
What was your biggest motivation to start Union League and then eventually Union Basketball as a facility?
Union League was created as a place for people to play in a safe yet competitive environment. We believe that team camaraderie is just as important in basketball as the competition on the court. We wanted Union League to allow for that and to promote it even between teams, hence the name.
That vision led to the Union Basketball facility. A place for people to come play, watch and talk about the game in an environment where they feel welcome, accepted and safe. We’re building a community of trust and friendship over the long run and we’re hoping to reflect that in the groups that come in and the programs that we facilitate.
What was the most challenging thing about trying to expand Union to more than a league?
The process of moving from a league to a facility definitely had its share of challenges. Finding the right location in the lower mainland proved difficult. Location, building requirements and city approval were all factors in landing where we are today on this beautiful tip of Mitchell Island. On top of that, doing the whole design and building process during a pandemic added an extra layer of challenge for everyone involved. In the end, the timing worked out for Union Basketball to open its doors at a time where basketball was needed most by the community and the response has been tremendous!
What separates Union from other leagues and facilities?
The physical attributes of what Union Basketball offers isn’t what separates us from other facilities and leagues. Those things can be duplicated easily under the right circumstances. What separates us is the people. The people that are part of the team that run Union Basketball as well as the community of people who choose to play, watch or hang out here. The community is always going to be what defines Union Basketball and makes it special. We look forward to continuing to build the community here and to seeing the growth that is to come!
Although the facility has only been open for 2 months, Union has already had hundreds of visitors play on their courts. Union Basketball emphasizes accessibility for all - it’s not just for those who have played the game for years, but also a space for those who have never played to come and have fun. Nate and Ping hope to create a strong basketball community in the lower mainland and to bring people together through the love of the sport.