By Gregg Hoffmann
La Crosse – Negotiations between the Arkansas RimRockers of the NBA Development League and the La Crosse Center have broken off and seem unlikely to resume.
RimRockers owner Larry Crain said via email he was shocked that the Center Board did an “about face” in the middle of the talks. Dave Pretasky, who would have been a local minority owner in the team, said he believed the potential move of the RimRockers is dead, although he wanted to hear that officially from Crain.
The talks about moving the team from Little Rock to La Crosse started about a month ago and had their ups and downs. A little over a week ago, any deal seemed doomed, but then movement on both sides rejuvenated the possibility of the move.
Dates in February and March were a problem, but the two sides seemed to work that out. In the end, the deal breakers came over rent, a per ticket fee and a new basketball floor.
The Center Board wanted $3,000 rent and a sliding ticket fee, based on attendance. Crain wanted either lower rent or a waiver of the ticket fee.
Pretalsky said the ownership group also was willing to pay up to $35,000 toward a refurbished floor, but the Center Board wanted a new floor, which could cost up to $90,000.
Center Board representatives said the ticket fee is paid by every group that uses the Center. The rent and new floor were needed to make basketball a profitable venture for the Center, representatives said.
“I am thoroughly disappointed for the city and the fans,” Pretasky told the La Crosse Tribune. “I think the city loses. I think the downtown restaurants lose. That’s 24 nights during the winter where there would have been a significant number of people downtown. It’s a big loss.”
Mayor Mark Johnsrud had entered into the negotiations at one point, and Crain said he believed he had a verbal agreement with the mayor.