University alumnus’ recreational basketball league expands

The Ultimate Hoops league has three divisions for differing skill levels.

Kelly Gulbrandson

Young sports stars often dream of professional fame, complete with obsessive fans and high-paying endorsements. But for many, that dream never becomes a reality.

A local recreational basketball league, however, is trying to create a professional-league experience for people who didn’t quite make it to the pros.

on the web

For more information on Ultimate Basketball, go to http://ultimatehoopsmn.com/ topflight/home.cfm

Ultimate Hoops, founded by University alumnus Alan Arlt, provides an opportunity for people in the Twin Cities metro area ages 17 and older to play basketball, complete with trades to other teams and local business sponsorships. For example, Dinkytown’s Burrito Loco bought naming rights for the men’s recreational division “Spurs” team last week.

Burrito Loco owner John Pillsbury said he wanted a place for teams to go after games. Players on the Spurs team will receive VIP cards with players-only discounts to the restaurant.

“We want people to be aware that Dinkytown is a good place to go, with night life and places to eat,” he said. “I’m excited to work with Ultimate Hoops.”

Arlt said he also hopes to partner with other local businesses in the next six months.

A league of his own

Arlt said he founded the league as a way to connect local basketball players.

“The league is a meld of ESPN and Facebook,” he said.

Ultimate Hoops has three divisions – recreational, competitive and top-flight – each of which requires a higher player skill level, respectively.

Arlt said he played in multiple recreational basketball leagues after he graduated from the University, but the idea of starting his own league never left his mind.

Ultimate Hoops started in April 2006 as a year-round league. During each 10-week session, the teams play once a week for eight weeks and have playoffs for two weeks, Arlt said. He said the number of teams has expanded from five teams in the recreational division to 28 teams in all three leagues since last year.

University alumnus Sean Ball, who plays in the competitive division, said the league is a good social opportunity as well.

“It’s a way to stay connected with college friends and to meet others,” he said.

What makes the league different from others, Arlt said, is its Web site. It lists statistics on all players and teams, contains interviews with players as well as podcasts and videos of previous games, he said.

Eric Parkin, who graduated from the University in December, also plays in the recreational division.

“(The Web site) makes you excited to get up in the morning to check out the stats of other teams, check on your team articles and interviews done on players,” Parkin said.

He also said he likes the awards and all-star games at the end of each session.

Arlt said he had a few problems with the league when it began. The teams played games in the Northwest Athletic Club in Minneapolis through August 2006.

However, when another company bought the club, its owners weren’t interested in keeping Ultimate Hoops there, so Arlt had to move the games to three sites in Bloomington, where teams currently play.

Arlt said he plans to increase the number of teams in the current leagues, expanding the Web site and starting a junior league for people under age 17.

A women’s league is scheduled to begin next year, he said.

Kyle Wenzel, a University alumnus and player in both the recreational and competitive divisions, said he was looking for a league to join through his employer, but couldn’t find one.

“I played in a bunch of leagues at the ‘U,’ but this league is so different than the others,” he said.

Wenzel said he often jokes with his other friends that they’ll be playing in the league until they are 40 or 45 years old, like the older players right now.

“My friends and I kid around that we’re going to be those guys soon,” he said.