It’s not every day that your hometown may have a chance to be the home of a professional basketball team.
The Golden State Warriors and the city of Santa Cruz are in the beginning stages of moving the Warriors’ D-League team, the Dakota Wizards, from Bismarck, N.D. to Surf City.
Santa Cruz’s city council will vote on the $2.5-million project on Tuesday, April 10 to construct a 3,200-seat temporary arena. According to the Santa Cruz Sentinel, a parking lot on the corner of Front Street and Laurel Street Extension will be the site of the new venue.
Although Santa Cruz is a small community of about 55,000 people, the Wizards could thrive in Surf City. Santa Cruz is a rich basketball community for its size with the Dads Club boys basketball tournament stretching back 56 years. Every year, Santa Cruz’s Civic Auditorium (located about ten blocks from the proposed arena site) is packed with fans watching high school basketball.
Plus, Santa Cruz, rather than Bismarck, is Warriors territory. It’s rare to find a basketball fan who doesn’t back the Warriors in the Santa Cruz area. Fans would relish in the opportunity to attend a Warriors event in Santa Cruz rather than making the drive up Highway 17 and I-880. D-League games obviously aren’t the same as NBA games, but this situation could be similar to that of the San Francisco and San Jose Giants. Many people in the area attend San Jose Giants games because they are closer and cheaper. Additionally, it gives fans an opportunity to see possible future stars from their favorite professional organization.
The Warriors would benefit from the move, too. Their prospects would be an hour and a half drive south of the main offices in Oakland, rather than a plane ride away in North Dakota. The entire front office would be able to keep much better tabs on the team, and the franchise would likely generate more revenue from its developmental team since more Warriors fans will buy tickets.
The Warriors originally wanted to place the team in San Jose, as Marcus Thompson points out, but Santa Cruz actually fits the bill for a D-League team better. The markets for the NBA minor league teams tend to much smaller than those associated with minor league baseball.
$2.5-million isn’t a ridiculous loan, either. Santa Cruz should be able to pay off the amount through ticket and concession revenue without a problem. Ultimately, the initial debt would actually spark the city’s economy long-term.
Santa Cruz is a tourist-driven town that thrives on the fact that it’s like a little piece of Southern California in Northern California. When the Boardwalk and beaches aren’t attracting people, the economy suffers. During the winter months, this is especially true. The Wizards could help change that.
Because the team would attract more people to downtown Santa Cruz, local restaurants, shops, and bars could benefit from a greater number of customers during the city’s normally slow months.
There are negatives, of course. Parking will be a problem, as it is around every sports venue, and the fact that the stadium is temporary is a little unsettling. The positives still outweigh the negatives though, because not only will the team attract more people, but the venue itself will as well.
After the first year, the venue will host basketball tournaments, concerts, and other events. Santa Cruz does not have a major venue like this in the area, so that $2.5-million investment seems like a pretty good one when you think about how much money the venue could bring to the city in years to come.
The move is still in the preliminary stages and nothing is set in stone, but it’s an opportunity Santa Cruz shouldn’t pass up and the Warriors would really benefit from.