Idaho Stampede hope fans stick around after Blazers' cameo

bmurphy@idahostatesman.comOctober 12, 2013 

— For one night, professional basketball proved it could attract big crowds to Downtown Boise.

Now the challenge for the Idaho Stampede is to bring some of the 6,268 fans who packed CenturyLink Arena for Friday night’s exhibition game between the Portland Trail Blazers and Utah Jazz back for an NBA Development League game.

“It’s building some interest in professional basketball,” said Bill Ilett, the Stampede’s managing investor. “They get to see the product. It just takes time.”

The Stampede averaged less than half that number of fans for games last season — and many times had less than one-third of Friday’s crowd. Tickets for the exhibition game ranged from $85 for courtside seats to $10 for standing-room only. Plenty of spectators stood throughout the game on the concourse level.

“You knew the fan base here would come out and support both teams,” Blazers General Manager Neil Olshey said.

Idaho is in its second season as an affiliate of Portland. The Blazers handle all basketball operations, while the Stampede are responsible for the business side. Portland brought its dancers, cheerleaders, mascot, arena announcers and stat-keeping crew for the game, giving it a true NBA feel.

“Trying to create an NBA environment with people who really embrace it is just fun for everyone,” Olshey said.

Three players who suited up for Portland on Friday night — Richard Howell, Dee Bost and E.J. Singler — will be in Boise for the start of the season, Olshey said.

Idaho coach Michael Peck is back for his second year.

“We made a major investment in terms of giving partial contracts to ensure that guys would be willing to come to Boise if they didn’t make the Trail Blazer roster, which I think will improve the product,” Olshey said. “Hopefully it’s a nice introduction to some of our younger guys that might spend some time down here during the year.”

Olshey said Portland and Idaho officials would discuss the game and see how it did from a revenue and entertainment standpoint. If the response was good, he said, “I’m sure we’ll do everything in our power to come back again.”

Brian Murphy: 377-6444; Twitter: @murphsturph

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