WisBusiness: NBA minor league team could be headed to La Crosse

By Gregg Hoffmann

LA CROSSE – The latest possibility for minor league basketball in La Crosse is the NBA Development League.

Larry Crain Jr., the owner of the Arkansas RimRockers in the D-League, is visiting La Crosse this week to check out the La Crosse Center facilities and meet with officials and others about the possible move of his franchise from Little Rock.

La Crosse had a successful CBA team in the past. Several proposals for minor league basketball and hockey have been made in recent years.

Crain, an Arkansas businessman, is expected to evaluate the arena, city and overall support for a team here, and make a decision within a week or two.

Art Fahey, manager of the La Crosse Center, told the La Crosse Tribune he has dealt primarily with Ron Ekker, a former president and coach of the now-defunct La Crosse Catbirds, who has served as the point man in trying to bring minor league basketball back to La Crosse.

Fahey said this latest attempt carries some serious weight. “With the NBA backing, they are obviously going to run with NBA rules and do it right,” Fahey told the Tribune. “Phil Evans (NBA D-League president), he is not in the dark about La Crosse. He saw La Crosse being successful with the Catbirds.”

In the recent past, surveys of motels, restaurants and other La Crosse businesses showed they would not support a sports franchise at the La Crosse Center if it hurt convention business. Conventions bring people to the city for a longer time than one night and often result in more revenue. But, if schedules for a team could be worked around conventions, there is backing for a franchise.