The Dakota Wizards are calling Thursday night's shindig for its season-ticket holders - which will feature Hall of Famer Jerry West - a tipoff dinner and celebration.
But even though it promises to be a fun evening for Wizards' fans, there is an important purpose behind the event for the team's new owners, the Golden State Warriors.
"We're giving a statement of how serious we are in making a commitment," said Jim Weyermann, who is the Wizards' new president as well as the vice president of new franchise development for the Warriors. "We want to build our relationship with the community and share our points of view and generate excitement about the Wizards.
"... Signing up for season tickets is a significant commitment, and we want to demonstrate our appreciation for that commitment."
To that end, the Warriors are sending most of the members of their braintrust to Bismarck. In addition to West, who was hired by the Warriors in May, scheduled to appear at the event are Warriors co-owner Joe Lacob; his son, Kirk, who is general manager of the Wizards as well as Warriors director of basketball operations; Bob Myers, the Warriors assistant general manager; and Weyermann. Warriors general manager Larry Riley was also scheduled to attend, but had to cancel to have emergency shoulder surgery.
"We're heading out there to get familiar with the area and let people get to know us," said Myers, who played for UCLA's 1995 national championship team. "It gives the fans and the sponsors the chance to put a face to the names. Certainly Jerry West will be the big draw, but it's a chance in a lot of ways to show how much it means to us to have purchased this team. We're kind of putting our money where our mouth is, to put our stamp on the whole thing."
Myers said he sees the Warriors helping take the lead in the evolution of the D-League.
"Right now it's still in the nascent stages," Myers said. "But it continues to grow, eventually into a model similar to baseball's."
Weyermann has plenty of experience in that area. His most recent position was as president and CEO of the San Jose Giants, San Francisco's Class A farm team. In 2009 the Giants were named the top minor league team in all of baseball. During his six season with the Giants, the team broke franchise records for attendance four times.
Weyermann is eager to implement his ideas with the Wizards.
"You win or lose in a minor league market by delivering a superior fan experince," he said. "We want to be so word of mouth that all of us parents will be standing on the sideline at our kids' soccer game talking about going to the Wizards game Friday night. We want it to be so much fun. There has to be something for everyone."
That means more than just putting a winning team on the court.
"The quality of the fan experince and food are probably the two biggest factors in whether you succeed in a minor league setting," Weyermann said. "Yeah, we would like the team to be competitive, but that's a distant providing a fun, safe and affordable place to go to consistently attract families."
Already the Warriors have upgraded the team website and are working on in-game promotions and some new food items at the Civic Center.
They also are putting together flexible ticket packages for those who want more than single-game tickets but can't, or don't want to, commit to a 25-game season ticket plans.
The Warriors' exhibition game planned for the Bismarck Civic Center was scrapped Tuesday along with the rest of the NBA's preseason schedule.
But Weyermann said the Warriors plan other events to strengthen the connection with Bismarck, including a fanfest the weekend of the season opener.