Dakota Wizards general manager Kirk Lacob (top) and president Jim Weyermann smile as they prepare to make a presentation to the Santa Cruz City Council on Tuesday. (Glenn Cravens/Register-Pajaronian).
SANTA CRUZ — The Golden State Warriors of the 1990s were largely defined by the “Run TMC” trio of Tim Hardaway, Mitch Richmond and Chris Mullin, who played at a fast pace and kept the fans in Oakland on their feet in excitement.
The current Warriors ownership hopes they can channel some of that fast-break speed and success in bringing their NBA Development League franchise here to the downtown district.
The Santa Cruz City Council is on board with the idea, agreeing Tuesday to explore deeper into how the Dakota Wizards, the D-League team owned by the Warriors, can relocate to Santa Cruz.
The council voted 6-0, with Ryan Coonerty not voting because he wasn’t there.
For about 2 1/2 hours, the City Council, City Manager Martin Bernal and members of the Warriors leadership went into discussion about how to make it happen so that by later this year — December if the situation gets dicey — the Wizards are playing in front of thousands of basketball fans at 140 Front St.
Leadership with the Wizards wore “Santa Cruz Basketball” shirts designed in the same way most NBA franchise apparel is labeled. It was in the colors of the Warriors.
Of course, there were concerns from the council as well as the public, who brought up all sorts of topics such as emissions, parking for residents in the area, and why the city has to invest in a roughly $2.5 million project.
The Warriors and the city have a general agreement to split the cost. The money will all come from the city’s general fund, but the Warriors will pay the city $1.25 million as part of their deal. The city hopes it can pay back its half through revenue generated by the new facility.
“I don’t think we’re entertaining this idea if it hurts the general fund,” said Jim Weyermann, the president of the Dakota Wizards.
Weyermann and Kirk Lacob, the general manager of the Wizards, went through the history of the D-League as well as the concept of a pre-fabricated building to be located in the downtown area. They showed several different tented buildings that have been used in Las Vegas, Philadelphia and San Jose.
The building would seat about 3,000 people during Wizards games, but it would house more depending on what other events would take place at the venue.
An artist’s rendition shows the inside of the building having 15 rows of seating along the sideline, and 11 rows of seating behind each hoop. There’s a group of seats on a couple of corners.
The proposed building was brought up as much as the Santa Cruz Civic Auditorium, which has seating for about 1,000. Renovating the building would have cost more, Bernal said.
Warriors brass had considered the Civic Auditorium but realized age and a lack of seating was almost a no-go.
The proposed building would be owned by the city. Although it’s a temporary structure, the city would look into building a permanent home if the Warriors franchise considers a long-term deal.
“This is a community that has wanted something on this level for decades,” said Councilwoman Lynn Robinson. “We want a long-lasting team if we’re going to be in this relationship.”
Time is a concern as well. The council will return to the topic May 8. By then, it and the Warriors hope construction begins soon after in time for next season, which is scheduled to start in November.
If the building isn’t ready by then, the Wizards could start the season on the road, giving the locals about an extra month to get the building ready.
If worst comes to worst, the Wizards could play some of their 25 home games at a high school, at Oracle Arena, or another venue.
Weyermann acknowledged the concern and assured that it will work with the city to get the job done.
And the city isn’t the only one concerned about getting this relocation deal finished.
“It’s a question the NBA asks me everyday,” Weyermann said. “We’re focused on getting it done. We’ll need to be open in December.”
The Dakota Wizards have played in Bismarck, N.D. for the past 17 seasons. The Warriors purchased the franchise last year. And while Lacob and Weyermann said the franchise is doing OK financially — it was fourth among the 16 D-League teams in sponsorship revenue and second in single-game ticket sales according to the Warriors — they want to move the franchise closer to big brother.
If the Wizards come to Santa Cruz, it would only be about a 90-minute drive from Oracle Arena, home of the Warriors, by way of Highways 17 and 880.
Lacob said he spends a full day each month making the trip by plane to Bismarck from the Bay Area. That wouldn’t be necessary if the team was on Front Street in Santa Cruz.
The move also benefits the Wizards players, who could get immediate contact with the Warriors players.
“They can see a practice with the Warriors and come back to Santa Cruz to play in a game,” Lacob said.
Because of the new collective bargaining agreement between the NBA and its players association, players can soon transfer from the D-League to the NBA as many times as the franchise deems fit. Injured NBA players can also be sent to the D-League to participate in a tune-up game.
As proof, the Warriors sent Chris Wright back to Dakota to help the Wizards in the first round of the D-League playoffs, scheduled for Thursday. The Wizards face the Bakersfield Jam.
Lacob channeled his inner Silicon Valley and talked about how the Warriors are trying to think outside the box in hopes of building a winner. Only three NBA teams own a D-League team.
“We’re an early adopter,” Lacob said. “We want to be a pioneer. If you look at the top three seeds in the NBA, they’re all involved in this. We don’t want to emulate, say, the Lakers, we want to pass them.”
Scotts Valley High boys basketball coach Charles Burks was one of the supporters who spent his three minutes at the podium telling the City Council to do what it can to make things a reality.
Burks, along with John Swift, run Team Santa Cruz, an AAU basketball program; both envision the facility being used for youth tournaments.
“It’s a win-win situation for everybody,” Burks said. “Monterey has a great sports facility. This is a chance for us to have a great sports facility in Santa Cruz.”
Burks also brought up the local chain of development structured by the San Francisco Giants.
“The Warriors have a great following, and they sell out all their games at Oracle,” Burks said. “Look at the Giants. They have teams in San Jose and Fresno and those games sell out. It helps the whole program. The players that come here might end up living in Santa Cruz, and they become residents. And then, they bring their families and friends. Word will get out.”
For the complete article see the 04-12-2012 issue.
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