Three days after Wichita Biddy Basketball appeared to dissolve into history, it's back for at least one more season, according to a group who plans to take over the league.
After the Salvation Army announced Friday it would end its association with the youth basketball league, a private donor stepped in to try to save the program, which is more than 50 years old.
"A major investor has made sure we'll have the funds we need to operate for another year," Jay Wassall, who will serve as director under the reorganized league, said Monday. "So for the first year, finances aren't really an issue."
The group is also working to keep Biddy at the current facility at the Garvey Sports Center, near Harry and Oliver.
The Garvey family donated the center for Biddy use in 1995. The family apparently retained ownership, Wassall said, but leased it to the Salvation Army "for a nominal fee."
"We are trying to work out a deal where we can keep the facility," Wassall said. "That's where our parents are comfortable, and it's a facility everyone is used to."
The reason the save came so quickly is that the group knew for some time that the Salvation Army was considering dropping the program.
"We had lots of meetings and knew this was a possibility," Wassall said.
A group that was interested in seeing the Biddy league survive began looking for ways to keep it going.
"It was a group of us who are big into basketball," said James Carr, whose younger brother, Antoine, played in the Biddy league before going on to play at Wichita State University and in the National Basketball Association.
"We all are just trying to pull together and keep it alive," James Carr said.
The league costs more the $300,000 a year just in operational costs, Wassall said. Some of that is offset by the $100 fee players pay. This past season, there were about 60 teams and 750 players.
But Wassall, Carr and others don't want to keep it going at the current level. They want to see it grow to the 2,000 or more players who once made up the Biddy league in Wichita.
It's a league nationally whose alumni include Darnell Valentine, Larry Bird and Julius Erving.
To grow the league, Wassall said the new group will seek corporate sponsors and try to expand into a summer league for boys and girls ages 5-14. It also hopes to offer camps in the offseason.
"What we will need is community support because this has always been a program that's been a benefit to the entire community of Wichita," Wassall said.
"And we will never turn down a kid who wants to play basketball."