Economic Development Reporter- Silicon Valley Business Journal
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For a beach town more associated with surfing than any other sport, Santa Cruz seems to have taken a liking to the NBA development league Santa Cruz Warriors basketball team.
“We sold out the first four games,” Santa Cruz Warriors President Jim Weyermann told me. “That’s 2,505 in attendance (each game), so a little over 10,000 people for the first four games.”
In addition to the impressive turnout, Weyermann said the team, which was previously based in North Dakota and generating small crowds and little revenue, is already racking up d-league superlatives.
After selling more than 900 season tickets and 500 partial-season ticket packages, the team is No. 2 in the league for season ticket revenue and leads the d-league in game day revenue and individual ticket revenue, Weyermann said. The team, a franchise of the NBA's Golden State Warriors, does not disclose revenue numbers.
The Warrior’s first game in Santa Cruz was Dec. 23 – three months after the move was given the green light by the City Council. During that period, the team built a $5.4 million arena on a former boardwalk parking lot with the help of $4.1 million in city loans.
Kaiser Permanente secured naming rights for the arena for an undisclosed amount, and Santa Cruz-based audio communications company Plantronics also signed on as a founding sponsor.
Construction came down to the wire after the project was fast-tracked by the city to help offset the usual winter tourism lull, also bringing in additional sales tax and parking revenue, but Weyermann is happy with the result.
He said there is “no doubt” that the move from North Dakota to Santa Cruz was a good one.
“With the (tourism) off-season, there are very, very few entertainment options in Santa Cruz from November to April,” said Weyermann, himself a former Santa Cruz resident.
He said 80-85 percent of the team’s fans come from within a 12-mile radius of the arena, though others have come from places farther away, like Chico and Bakersfield.
“Most people are going to stay close to home, giving us an opportunity to be – no pun intended - the only game in town,” Weyermann said.
And Weyermann says it isn't just the team that's benefiting from the move to Santa Cruz. He said team sponsors and local businesses are running game-day promotions, resulting in bigger crowds at restaurants and retail shops.
Stay tuned for more on the impact the Santa Cruz Warriors are having on local businesses in the tourism-dependent coastal town.