It has been 15 years since a professional basketball team called the La Crosse Center home. With the latest news, it will be longer.
Art Fahey informed the La Crosse Center Board on Tuesday night that the Milwaukee Bucks, who are looking to put a Developmental League or “D-League” team in somewhere in Wisconsin, have scratched La Crosse off their list.
It was a relatively quick and certainly disappointing end to a process that started in early June, said Fahey, the La Crosse Center director.
With La Crosse’s proven history with pro basketball with the La Crosse Catbirds (1985-94) and La Crosse Bobcats (1996-2001) of the now-defunct Continental Basketball Association, plus a 6,100-seat arena that could soon see $45 million in improvements, being eliminated early in the process was a bit surprising to Fahey.
“The history that we have here, proven history, with pro basketball and the renovations that are coming our way (to the La Crosse Center), I thought we would get a little further into the discussion,” Fahey said.
“One of the things that was very important to them was the distance from Milwaukee. That came up right away in the discussions.”
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La Crosse is 210 miles from Milwaukee, while the other finalists for the Bucks’ D-League team — Racine (24), Sheboygan (59), Oshkosh (88) and Appleton (108) — are closer. None of those cities, however, currently has an arena that compares to the La Crosse Center, Fahey said.
“That is why I thought we had a legitimate chance,” Fahey said. “In addition, the success we have had with minor-league sports — the Loggers have had tremendous success, the Catbirds were tremendously successful. We have shown to be a good sports town.”
The Bucks, who are just one of eight NBA teams currently without a D-League team, have indicated they would like to have a D-League team in place by the fall of 2017. While that team won’t be in a La Crosse, Fahey said that doesn’t change any plans, or renovations that the La Crosse Common Council unanimously supported.
“We had the plans in place for upgrading the arena, the dressing rooms and locker rooms, that was all part of the expansion before the D-League came along,” Fahey said.
“We knew it was going to be a process. We had to approach them (Bucks) as we found out about it through a Milwaukee publication. We called them and told them we wanted to be a part of this,” Fahey said.
“They had already sent it to a couple of cities, so I don’t think we were on the highest part of the list to start with. We put together our proposal and put our best foot forward.”
So what happens now? Are there any other plans in place to pursue another professional team, basketball or otherwise?
“There are no plans for anything like that right now. The focus is getting the building remodeled and expanded, which was under way prior to the notice that the Bucks were looking for a D-League site,” Fahey said.