SBJ/February 1 - 7, 1999/No Topic Name

Hoops leagues fighting over St. Louis franchise

A turf war is emerging between the Continental Basketball League and the new International Basketball League over a franchise the CBA thought it had secured near St. Louis.

The CBA has filed lawsuits in U.S. District Court in Phoenix against the IBL and the RiverCity Basketball Club, claiming that owners of the St. Charles, Mo., team reneged on a deal to expand into the CBA.

The IBL is set to begin playing a 64-game schedule in November, and last December the league awarded its ninth franchise to the RiverCity Basketball Club. The team had been set to join the CBA, but its board of directors voted instead to join the upstart IBL.

That decision triggered the CBA to sue.

"We spent a considerable amount of time and money developing [the market] for professional basketball," CBA Commissioner Gary Hunter said in a statement. "We simply cannot stand idly by while the IBL takes our hard-earned assets and when RiverCity refuses to honor its contractual obligations. We must continue to act in the best interests of the CBA."

In addition to St. Charles, the CBA had targeted Trenton, N.J., for expansion but chose not to pursue the effort.

IBL president Thaxter Trafton said he did not expect the CBA to protest RiverCity's decision to move into the IBL. "We are surprised, and we think it's without merit," he said of the suit.

The RiverCity club, which is headed by former CBA executive Michael Mannion, was originally marketed as a CBA team, and the team is offering refunds to fans who bought season tickets expecting the team to play in the CBA.

"The board of directors voted to join the International Basketball League because of its sound business plan that is well-suited for the St. Louis market," Mannion said.

The nine-team CBA is expected to announce its expansion plans sometime in the next two months.

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