A professional basketball team in Fall River? Is this really a good idea? Is Mike Herren really a viable coach? Who will pay for the needed renovations to the Bank Street Armory? Can Fall River really support a basketball team?
The Premier Basketball League has confirmed that the South Coast United will be on the schedule for the 2010-2011 season and already I’m hearing some voices of doubt. Now, Ol’ Lefty has absolutely no interest in basketball (that’s the one where they toss the ball into a peach basket right?) but I think this is a fantastic development for our city and I may even have to take in a game or two!
Now, I’ve advocated before for a professional sports team in Fall River. Professional sports teams have the ability to raise the profile of a community and serve as a catalyst for economic development. When I wrote in favor of professional sports team in Fall River before I was thinking baseball and possibly soccer, but I think basketball maybe the best fit of all. Here’s why:
1. A professional basketball team can play in an existing venue. The South Coast United plans on playing its home games at the Bank Street Armory (Municipal Veterans Memorial). This means no new facility needs to be built. This means that the financing to build a new venue doesn’t have to be found.
2. The South Coast United can be part of downtown revitalization. The SCU will be playing 13 homes games in DOWNTOWN Fall River. The goal is for the team to draw 1,000 fans for each home game. If they’re successful that would mean 1,000 people in downtown Fall River. 1,000 people that may decide to grab a bite to eat before a game or grab a beer afterwards. And it doesn’t have to be 1,000 Fall River residents. You could easily have someone drive in to Fall River to see a game and family reasonable prices and decide to hit Battleship Cove before hand or tour the Lizzie Borden B&B. Is the South Coast United going to turn Fall River around? No. But, it could certainly be a catalyst for economic development.
3. The South Coast United could help preserve some Fall River history. By playing their home games at the Bank Street Armory the SCU may provide the means to restore and preserve one of Fall River’s most notable and recognized buildings. If the team or league doesn’t provide these funds I think it could perhaps present some opportunities for grant funding. We have such a tough time preserving our history in Fall River that this is almost a worthwhile proposition just on the basis of preserving the Armory alone.
On top of that minor league basketball seems kind of novel , minor league baseball is all around us, and hockey is nearby too, but basketball would be unique. If the team holds true to its planned ticket prices the SCU would be affordable family entertainment, something Fall River needs and something that would draw others into the city. An article about the Vermont PBL team seems a pretty good indicator that a Fall River team could work and even lays out the basic blueprint that a Fall River team should follow.
For those who feel that Mike Herren would prove too much to handle, well I can't imagine anybody who would invest in a team would let one person derail it. I think if Mike DID prove to be a problem he'd be let go.And certainly this is one area where Mike’s ability to generate attention will work in his favor. Having Herren as the head coach will certainly generate some buzz and create some local interest in the team. And let's be honest basketball is the one area of his life that really can't be questioned. He was a dominate player, a champion on championship teams and people will be curious to see if he take his talent as a player and focus that into talent as a coach. There are very few other local notables who would generate that level of interest, maybe Skippy Karam.
The bottom line is the South Coast United is a low or no risk investment. It's the opportunity to bring a professional sports team to the city without the logistical nightmare that would exist with other sports. It's the chance to bring some excitement to downtown and a little attention to our city. If it turns out not to be successful what have we lost, but if it is, it could be a real boon for our city.