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Cavs explore bringing NBA D-League team to Covelli

Published: Tue, June 7, 2011 @ 10:45 p.m.




The Covelli Centre’s executive director says he’s talked with Cleveland Cavaliers and National Basketball Association Development League officials about bringing a Cavs-affiliated minor-league team to the Youngstown facility.

“Nothing is set in stone,” said Eric Ryan, the center’s executive director. “We’ve had discussions, but there’s no deal. We’re always exploring any opportunity that comes up. The D-League is a growing league and looking to expand.”

One obstacle, he said, is the NBA D-League season runs concurrent to the season of the United States Hockey League’s Youngstown Phantoms, an amateur hockey team that plays its home games at the Covelli Centre. The USHL’s regular season is between September and March, and the D-League’s regular season is between November and April.

Scheduling games for both teams “would be the challenge. It needs serious consideration,” Ryan said. “It’s also the busiest time” for the center for other events.

“It’s still very preliminary,” Ryan said. “They’re in the exploratory stage, and so are we.”

Ryan said Cavaliers officials contacted him about a month ago on bringing a team here.

The Phantoms’ contract with the city-owned center guarantees the hockey team will play at least two more seasons at the arena.

Bruce Zoldan, the Phantoms’ owner, said he wants his team to stay at the center even longer.

“I’m in it for the long haul,” he said.

Sharing the center with a D-League team “certainly could be an issue,” Zoldan said. “On the other hand, I’m looking out for the benefit of the Covelli Centre. I’d be interested in talking with the Cavs to work this out and to market jointly.”

Zoldan said a Cavaliers official left a telephone message for him recently, but he hadn’t returned the call as of Tuesday.

If the two teams work together to share advertising and sponsors as well as attract ticket holders while coordinating their schedules, both could succeed, Zoldan said.

“Operating in the same confines in my mind without cooperation and partnership would be problematic,” he said. “A fight for local sponsorships and local dollars with one team shop and one primary locker room” at the center would be a problem.

“A partnership would work,” Zoldan added.

Zoldan also said he’d “be very interested in a joint partnership” of the basketball team with the Cavs.

The Cavaliers and the Toronto Raptors share a D-League franchise in Erie, Pa., called the BayHawks.

Tad Carper, senior vice president of communications for the Cavaliers, declined to comment on having a team in Youngstown.

In an email to The Vindicator, Carper wrote: “We have had a really good D-League experience through our affiliation with the Erie BayHawks over the last several seasons and we continue to place a premium on the player development process within our franchise and our culture. As a result of our very positive experience with Erie and our strong commitment to player development for the future, we are now in the process of reviewing and considering various options for us to operate our own D-League franchise versus just having an affiliation as we have had in the past. We’re keeping all options open at this point.”

Erie will have a D-League team next season, said Casey Wells, executive director of the Erie County Convention Center Authority, which oversees the Louis J. Tulio Arena in Erie, Pa., the home of the BayHawks. But he isn’t sure about the team’s NBA affiliation.

The NBA wants each of its 30 teams to have its own D-League team, said Wells and Ryan. There are currently 16 D-League teams.

When Youngstown was looking for a national firm to manage the center in early 2008, the Cavaliers Operating Co. submitted a joint proposal with International Facilities Group of Chicago. As part of its proposal, the Cavs and IFG officials said there would be a Cavaliers’ D-League team for the facility in 2009.

But the Cavs and IFG pulled out of the running in March 2008 when the city insisted Ryan, then-interim executive director of the center, remain on staff on a full-time basis. The city selected SMG over Global Spectrum in May of that year.


1badeepster(124 comments)posted 5 years ago

It would be a shame if the NBA D-league team doesn't materialize because of Zoldan's mickey mouse amateur hockey team that NOBODY goes to see. The Steelhounds had a better chance of drawing hockey fans because at least they were a professional team. Step aside Firecracker Boy and let a professional basketball team in.

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2valleyred(1103 comments)posted 5 years ago

I went to a ton of Steelhounds game and they always had good crowds the days I went, especially on the weekends when they would get 4-5,000+. The Phantoms on the other hand.... not so much.

If this were to come to fruition, I think it would be wise to curtain 25% of the arena cause these games would never sellout.

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3snworb56(53 comments)posted 5 years ago

Why was it so imprtant to the city that Ryan remain on staff? Who's brother-in-law is he? Lose the hockey and if the prices are reasonable, the basketball may work. Especially if the management team would have been the Cavs organization. This whole thing is somewhat "confusing".

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4piak(508 comments)posted 5 years ago

If you read the article closely, it doesn't look like there is a whole lot of interest in this on the part of the Cavalier management.

Also, I don't believe this area is all that big on basketball. Football seems to dominate sports around here.

To this one person, it's a good idea but it doesn't seem to be workable. The words "keeping our options open" don't indicate a solid, deep interest in this area. It seems to me the Cavs management is looking for the best deal (as any business should). If they want into this area, I believe Bruce Zoldan would work something out with them. He's a businessman and knows how to make money. It could become a good deal for everybody.

At this point, it's all "could", "maybe" and such. But the area could use a good shot in the arm.

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5jackiex(1 comment)posted 5 years ago

Cavs managemet DOES want this to happen.

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6truehockeyfan(6 comments)posted 5 years ago

That "mickey mouse" amatuer hockey team is putting more people into the nhl than the Steelhounds ever did. The nhl combine was held this week and the 100 top draft prospects were invited (mind you that these were the top 100 eligible skaters from leagues all throughout North America) and 3 of them were ex-Phantoms and many others who were at the combine have played on visiting teams against the Phantoms down at the Covelli. You truely are seeing the up and coming stars in Div 1 college and the nhl right downtown @ the Covelli. Most people who bash it are just upset that the nightly "staged fighting" isn't happening like when the Steelhounds played there. Oh, and btw, I have no affiliation with the Phantoms what so ever. Just tired of it being bashed.

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7lookingglass(7 comments)posted 5 years ago

To snworb56, there is no brother-in-law relationship. Get your fact straight.

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8Attis(1128 comments)posted 5 years ago

This is all nothing but a bunch of nonsense generated by a bunch of greedy and stupid wheeler-dealers. The Bayhawks stay in Erie and signed a new contract with the Knicks. Wonder why they ditched Y-town? Try printing facts instead of rumors next time.

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9snworb56(53 comments)posted 5 years ago

lookingglass.... I was just asking? Isn't there usually something "behind the scenes" going on around here?

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10DFWCC(1 comment)posted 5 years ago

Word is done deal.
New Mex frachise from Alq will be moving to Yngtwn.
Side note great league excellent BB
I'm a season tkt holder in Erie. We share the Tulio Arena with the Otters (OHL) Bayhawks (D League) and the Erie Explosion (SIFL).
Looking fwd to seeing the Covelli

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