Grantland's Zach Lowe tweeted on Friday afternoon that talks between the Golden State Warriors' ownership and the WNBA about acquiring the L.A. Sparks were "gaining steam".
Previously, on Sparks Watch
Previously, on Sparks Watch
A source has now informed Swish Appeal that the Warriors are in serious discussions with the league and looking to acquire the franchise within 2-3 weeks to give them enough time to get ready for the 2014 WNBA season.
With ownership looking to relocate the team to the Bay Area and the 2014 season expected to begin in mid-May, acquiring the team by February would give them a little more than three months to quickly get ready to operate a team this year. Negotiations to complete the deal are still ongoing, but the organization is already working to address a couple of logistical hurdles.
First, with owner Joe Lacob's experience in both the ABL and the D-League, ownership certainly understands the value of playing in a smaller, more intimate environment for a league with average attendance in the 7,000-8,000 per game range. Similar to the previously discussed problems with the Sparks playing in Staples Center, the rent and size of Oakland's Oracle Arena (more affectionately known as ROARACLE to Warriors fans) is not ideal for a WNBA team and it's very unlikely a Bay Area WNBA team will end up playing there.
Second, we can expect the franchise to be re-branded and renamed - possibly as the Warriors - to establish consistency across the organization's set of pro basketball franchises, which has been a successful marketing strategy for Santa Cruz as brand familiarity has helped to attract fans and make them feel connected to the NBA squad.
The Warriors' eagerness to seize this opportunity despite the short time frame makes quite a bit of sense given that they've been interested in acquiring a team for some time. In acquiring and relocating the Sparks they would retain all the players currently under contract - it probably goes without saying that jumping into the business of operating a WNBA team with women's sports superstar Candace Parker and Stanford alum Nneka Ogwumike is an ideal situation for a Bay Area team from both a basketball and marketing standpoint.
Perhaps easing any anxiety about the organization's ability to pull this off in such a short time frame is their experience with the D-League. In 2012, the Golden State organization relocated the Dakota Wizards to Santa Cruz, CA, a city without a sufficient arena for a professional basketball team. By the end of the calendar year, they had completely re-branded the team, financed and built an arena, and managed to sell out 24 of 27 games during the 2012-13 D-League season. They are now considered to be one of the most successful organizations in the D-League and also handle gameday operations for the UC Santa Cruz men's and women's basketball teams when they play there.
Although the Warriors' ownership group appears to be the front-runner in this situation, what we still don't have is an answer to one of the questions James Bowman posed this past Friday: "How long is the WNBA willing to let the negotiations go on before a final decision is made?" More specifically, how long would the league wait for a potential owner from Southern California to step up before committing to the Warriors and relocation?
Time is running short for the type of process the Warriors' ownership would have to go through to relocate and promote a team - and it's probably unrealistic to expect them to wait beyond that 2-3 week time frame - but that's not to say that the window might not be a little larger for an ownership group interested in maintaining the brand and L.A. location.
For more on this story as it develops, stay tuned to our 2013-14 L.A. Sparks offseason storystream.
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