Prospective bidder has expansion plan
Rick Bonnell of the Charlotte Observer reports that Rick sturges has a plan to bring basketball back to Charlotte. Fourteen years after he helped start the Miami Heat, Sturges thinks Charlotte can be a successful NBA city.
Sturges was in Charlotte Wednesday meeting with various Charlotte leaders. He laid out his plans in an interview with The Observer:
He wants a team that would replace the Hornets to debut in 2004 in a new arena. He prefers not to play even temporarily in the Charlotte Coliseum. He believes the city needs to settle on an arena-financing plan and begin architectural and construction talks by September. He is comfortable with the city's most recent financing model, which would ask the team to pay its share through rent and by giving up access to certain revenue sources. But he questions whether an arena can still be built for $231 million. He wants the team to manage a new city-owned arena, and would agree to take a loss on certain events -- such as the ACC men's basketball tournament -- to make that happen. He wants Charlotte ownership in his group and has talked to potential investors from the area. And he expects the NBA to be more generous stocking this roster with players than the league has been with previous expansion teams.
Sturges thinks the NBA will charge $175 million or more as an expansion fee. At that price (more than 5 times greater than the Heat?s expansion fee of $32.5mil) the league would need to ensure the new team could be competitive. "The price they are looking for with this franchise should reflect how much help the league is willing to provide to get better sooner," Sturges said.
Sturges would be competing with a group led by former Boston Celtic Larry Bird to bring a team to Charlotte. The Bird group, backed financially by Boston entrepreneur Steve Belkin, wants to begin play in 2003 and is receptive to playing temporarily at the Coliseum.
Sturges said Bird's Hall of Fame credentials do not intimidate him.
"I wouldn't want to play him one-on-one on a basketball court," said Sturges, who played at Dartmouth. "But this is a whole different situation. ... I don't believe anyone has any huge advantage in this odd mix of basketball, business and marketing."
League officials, in Los Angeles for the start of the NBA Finals on Wednesday, could not be reached for comment.