wizards

After 17 seasons, the Dakota Wizards’ era in Bismarck is apparently coming to an end.

The Golden State Warriors, who bought the Wizards last June, have a proposal from the city of Santa Cruz, Calif., to move the D-League club there next season.

The proposal, which includes the city appropriating $2.5 million for a new facility, will be presented before the Santa Cruz city council on April 10. The council is expected to vote on the proposal in early May. The relocation also would have to be approved by the D-League.

“If everything goes through, the team will go to Santa Cruz,” Wizards general manager Kirk Lacob said.

Lacob said the primary reason for the move is to have the D-League team closer to the Warriors. Santa Cruz is about a 1½-hour drive from Golden State’s headquarters.

“It’s a situation where players could come back and forth quite easily, and the same way with coaches,”  Warriors’ general manager Larry Riley said. “... They can at least be right in tune with what’s going on on a day-to-day basis with the Warriors. It should make the developmental process go quite a bit better.”

The Wizards still have a year left on their lease at the Bismarck Civic Center, but the buyout clause is only $40,000.

The Wizards began operations in 1995 as members of the now-defunct International Basketball Association. After winning the IBA title in 2001, the Wizards jumped ship to the Continental Basketball Association, the long-standing feeder league to the NBA.

The Wizards continued their success in the CBA, winning championships in 2002 and 2004.

With the NBA throwing its resources behind the D-League, the Wizards again switched circuits, leaving the CBA for the 2006-07 season. The Wizards won their fourth championship that year and have been members of the D-League ever since.

The Warriors purchased the Wizards from Steve McCormick and Dawn Kopseng last year. At the time of the sale, the Warriors said they would explore the possibility of moving the team after this season.

“When we went there we were up front in saying that all options were on the table,” Riley said. “As we pursued things and looked at other models where NBA teams owned D-League teams, almost all of them had somewhat of a geographic (closeness) that we’re attempting to duplicate.”

The proposal calls for a 3,200-seat stadium that would be custom-built for the Warriors, which Lacob described as “a semi-permanent dome fabric structure.”

Santa Cruz city manager Martin Bernal expressed optimism about having a D-League team.

“Everybody has been real excited about just the idea of being able to … expand the Santa Cruz brand and another way to extend the tourism season and add to our activities,” Bernal told the Santa Cruz Sentinel. “That’s really important to the community.”

Charlie Jeske, manager of the Civic Center, said the Wizards moving would likely have a big initial impact.

“Anytime you lose prime tenant for 17 years, it’s going to hurt right off the bat,” Jeske said. “If we can get additional dates — whether it’s another team coming in or a few more concerts or conventions — maybe at the end of day it won’t hurt as bad as everybody thinks.”

If the proposal is not approved by Santa Cruz, there is a chance the Wizards could stay in Bismarck, although the Warriors would continue to examine other options.

“We’d have to reassess everything, but we’d likely be back,” Lacob said. “I know that is potentially awkward, to say the least.

“We’ve taken a calculated risk on this,” he added. “We understand that it could be tough if this were to somehow fall apart, but we’re confident that it won’t.”

Reach sports editor Lou Babiarz at 250-8243 or Lou.Babiarz@bismarcktribune.com.

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