By Rob Todor
The NBA Development League is headed for Canton.
According to a report by Mike Popovich of the Canton Repository, the Cleveland Cavaliers will announce today that a D-League franchise will play at Memorial Civic Center starting next season. A news conference has been scheduled for noon.
The Repository is reporting that Canton City Service Director Warren Price said he has given verbal approval to terms of a license agreement for a D-League franchise to SMG, the company which manages the Civic Center.
The D-League team will be owned and operated by the Cavs.
The Cavaliers had also talked with Eric Ryan, executive director of the Covelli Centre, about locating the D-League team at the downtown Youngstown facility.
Ryan said in a phone interview late Wednesday night that he had not officially been told the Cavs had decided on Canton.
“They were looking at several different cities,” Ryan said, “and there were a number of factors — scheduling, obviously the building, the market, sponsorship …
“They did their due diligence. We listened, but at the end of the day, it had to be right for the city of Youngstown.”
Ryan speculated that a number of factors could have contributed to the decision.
He believes Canton’s Memorial Civic Center has more open dates that it cold commit to the D-League franchise.
Like most minor-league franchises, said Ryan, the D-League covents weekend dates.
Most of those at the Covelli Centre, however, have already been committed to the Youngstown Phantoms of the United States Hockey League.
Most of the dates that were left, said Ryan, were committed to entertainment bookings.
“Attendance drives these franchises,” said Ryan. “Their [the D-League] schedule runs from November to March. That’s our busiest time. We can’t afford to give up those dates.
“Scheduling would have been a difficult task for us.”
The D-League was founded in 2001 and ended last season with 16 teams, according to the Repository article. The NBA wants to develop it into a true minor league farm system.
The Cavs’ D-League team had been based in Erie, Pa., since 2008. Erie will still have a team in the league. It will serve as a New York Knicks affiliate.
“I wish them luck,” said Ryan. “I think they have an opportunity to really grow in that building in Canton.”