As the Kickers and Flying Squirrels are kicking off their seasons, another Richmond pro sports team is making a move.
The Rim Riders, Richmond’s professional wheelchair basketball team, has merged with local nonprofit Sportable, which supports sports for athletes with disabilities.
Sportable executive director Hunter Leemon said his organization will absorb the Rim Riders’ operating costs. The Paralyzed Veterans of America’s Mid-Atlantic chapter helped fund the merger.
Leemon said the annual budget to run for a professional wheelchair basketball team typically is between $20,000 and $30,000.
“I was down in Louisville last year for the national wheelchair basketball tournament, and after I saw (the Rim Riders) play, I got on the phone with their people and said we need to work together,” Leemon said.
The Rim Riders have been around for over 40 years and play in Division 2 of the National Wheelchair Basketball Association. They play around the state and Mid-Atlantic region, as far north as New York.
Sportable supports 12 sports, including youth wheelchair basketball, but didn’t have a competitive program for adult wheelchair basketball. Now, with the Sportable Rim Riders in house, Leemon said it will have a pipeline for athletes to play their whole lives.
“It made sense for us to combine forces. Now the players can focus only on the basketball, and we can provide the infrastructure for them to grow,” Leemon said.
The Rim Riders will continue to play their home games around the city, including at the Humphrey Calder Community Center near Carytown. The team will hit the hardwood this fall at the Richmond Invitational, a tournament it’s currently organizing.
Leemon said he’s impressed with how well the Rim Riders are managed and coached.
“These athletes don’t just want to be a source of inspiration for others. They’re competitive, they want to win championships,” Leemon said.
Sportable, which operates in the Sports Center of Richmond off Overbrook Road near the Diamond, had $694,000 in revenue in 2016, Leemon said, up from a reported $504,000 in 2015.