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SBJ/June 23 - 29, 2003/This Weeks Issue
Bi-Lo Center: League will be back
Published June 23, 2003
The National Basketball Development League's recent decision to fold the Mobile (Ala.) Revelers and put the Greenville (S.C.) Groove on the shelf for the coming season translates to the loss of at least 26 dates for SMG-managed Mobile Civic Center and Centerplate-operated Bi-Lo Center in Greenville.
Bi-Lo Center GM Ed Rubinstein indicated, however, that the Groove won't be on the move after a year's hiatus. NBDL President Phillip Evans "has already called and wants to sit down at the end of the month to discuss moving forward. I take that as a good sign," Rubinstein said.
Building and league officials still think Greenville, which won the inaugural title two years ago playing in the most modern venue among NBDL locales, remains a prime market for developing NBA prospects despite the fact that the Groove's second-year attendance dropped 36 percent, to 1,073, from the first-year average of 1,676.
"There were no signs of improvement [at the gate], but they like the market. They really need to give themselves time to get staff in here. It's really a marketing issue," Rubinstein said.
ScheerSports had not been expected to be involved with the NBDL's third season before the change was announced.
Rubinstein maintains that the NBA wasn't fully prepared to promote the NBDL, rushing into the original eight Southeast U.S. cities only weeks before the initial season started with little or no marketing plans established.
"That hurt them the entire first season. Over the [following] summer, it was just too much of a hole to come out of. They need to take a step back, evaluate what went right and what went wrong, and come back stronger next year."
In Mobile, facility manager Jay Hagerman was somewhat surprised the NBDL eliminated the Revelers, leaving the Civic Center without a sports tenant. (The local ECHL franchise left at the close of the 2001-02 season for the new Arena at Gwinnett Center in Duluth, Ga.) "Average attendance was under 1,000 per game, but it was my understanding that other markets were doing about the same as we were," he said.
Hagerman, like Rubinstein, thinks the NBDL could prove to be a success with the right strategy. "I think the concept is fantastic," he said.