B-ball in T-Town?Written by Chris Schmidbauer | | firstname.lastname@example.org
When I arrived at the Huntington Center for the Oct. 19 preseason matchup between the Detroit Pistons and the Washington Wizards, a grin flashed across my face.
As I entered the floor level of the arena, it was clear that this facility has the perfect setup for basketball. The floor, which had been last used by the now defunct Toledo Ice, had been repainted and finished for the basketball game.
The facility really did shine, and I wasn’t the only one who thought so either.
“This arena is a great venue,” Pistons head coach John Kuester said after the team’s 98-92 preseason win against the Wizards. “It really is a beautiful place, and I think that Toledo has a lot to be proud of.”
Kuester wasn’t the only one singing the new arena’s praises. Several of the Pistons were impressed.
“I felt real comfortable out there tonight,” said point guard Rodney Stuckey said after scoring 34 points in the win. “It is really nice here, and it has been first-class since we got here this afternoon.”
Center Ben Wallace was seen interacting with fans near the Pistons bench, handing out Juicy Fruit gum to the crowd.
“I am a gentle giant by nature,” Wallace said with a smile. “But these great fans really got behind us. This was a great crowd here tonight.”
Starting guard Richard “Rip” Hamilton was impressed with the facility amenities, despite the Huntington Center not hosting a basketball game in its one year of existence.
“We play in many different places during the preseason, and not every place has the same quality,” Hamilton said.
I am not suggesting that an NBA team set up shop in the Glass City. I am not insane, but I do think an NBA Developmental League (NBDL) franchise is maybe more up Toledo’s alley. The attendance was more than 6,000 fans on Oct. 19, and while it was not a sellout, when you take into account the ticket prices the number is more than justified. Tickets ranged from $20 to $200, which would be considerably less with a NBDL team. Imagine what kind of attendance a franchise would draw with tickets around the $15 mark, much like Walleye tickets.
An NBDL team normally is affiliated with either two or three NBA teams, and with an NBA an hour to the north and another two hours east, Toledo’s location sets up beautifully for both teams to check in on their prospective players. Fort Wayne, Ind., has a NBDL franchise of their own, and the Mad Ants have been a success in the city. We have similar population sizes, industry and values. The same could happen here.
But Toledo’s real “ace-in-the-hole” is Toledo Arena Sports Inc. The parent company to the Toledo Mud Hens and the Toledo Walleye has done a fantastic job putting together two minor league franchises and making them a success.
I think it is realistic to think that they could make another minor league franchise a success, especially with the Toledo Bullfrogs, a proposed arena football team, still an unknown. The ownership of the three franchises has been able to have the teams transcend from just being sports to being family-friendly events. This group could do the same with basketball in Toledo.
Chris Schmidbauer is sports editor for Toledo Free Press and Toledo Free Press Star. Contact him at email@example.com. He is also the co-host of the “Odd Couple Sports Show” on Fox Sports Radio 1230 WCWA and can be heard every weekday from 10 a.m. to noon. He can also be seen weekly on the “Friday Night Frenzy Tailgate Show” on NBC 24.