Rumblings are afloat that the Golden State Warriors are in the planning stages of moving their D-League affiliate basketball team, the Dakota Wizards, to Santa Cruz.
According to the San Francisco Chronicle, the Warriors bought the 17-year-old Bismarck team squad year, and now a proposal on behalf of the team includes Santa Cruz spending $2.5 million on a new basketball facility for the Wizards to use.
“If everything goes through, the team will go to Santa Cruz,” Wizards general manager Kirk Lacob told the Bismarck Tribune.
Lacob, just 23, is the son of Joe Lacob, the current owner of the Golden State Warriors. He is by far the youngest executive in the NBA. The older Lacob was a well-known Palo Alto venture capitalist with prior minority ownership in the Boston Celtics before buying the Warriors.
For those unfamiliar, the "D-League," also called the NBDL, is the National Basketball Developmental League. It functions similarly to the minor league baseball system, with players feeding into the NBA from the lower ranks. D-League teams are housed by smaller markets nationwide like Tulsa, Oklahoma and Fayetteville, North Carolina.
Santa Cruz Mayor Don Lane said he is excited about the prospect of professional sports in the city and what is now a $2.5 million proposal.
"Most communities tend to rally around sports and back their team," he said. "There could be some pretty identifiable revenue streams that come from this."
Lane said the City Council will have an introductory talk about the prospect Tuesday afternoon. The Warriors have been talking to City Manager Martin Bernal for about a month, Lane said.
The first discussions were about using the Civic Auditorium, which holds 1,200 for sports and 1,900 for concerts. But, not only was the attendance too small for the team, but the building couldn't hold a professional basketball court.
So discussions turned to a semi-permanent building – like the giant tents used after the Loma Prieta earthquake and that house things like Cirque du Soleil and conventions. It would be located on land now used for Beach Boardwalk employee parking on Front Street toward the water from Laurel and would hold 3,200 people, Lane said.
Although the city has been cash-strapped and asked employees to take 10 percent pay cuts, Lane said there is money for a project like this, as long as the money could be paid back from revenues it would bring in.
"We have the money to finance it if it can be paid back," he said. "We have to structure a deal with the Warriors to put some guarantees in place."
According to Warriors beat writer Marcus Thompson II, Santa Cruz is a desirable spot for the Warriors to move the Wizards because basketball tends to be well attended in the county already, there are few local winter activities, and no similar venue exists, meaning it could be also used for concerts and other events.