The writing was on the wall for months, but the official move did not happen until Monday morning.
The Idaho Stampede are no more.
Two days after the Stampede’s 18th season in the Treasure Valley was completed, the Utah Jazz announced Monday they are moving the NBA D-League team to Salt Lake City to become the Salt Lake City Stars.
“I’d been suspecting the way things have been going, it would happen eventually,” said team founder and former managing investor Bill Ilett. “When it happens, the reality slaps you in the face. It’s a disheartening day.”
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In March 2015, the Jazz purchased the team and announced a one-year lease at Boise’s CenturyLink Arena. Ilett and Utah Jazz President Randy Rigby said Monday it was not a foregone conclusion the team would move when the purchase was made.
“I’ve heard some whispers that some assumed that, but it truly was not the case at all,” Rigby said. “We didn’t take this lightly. We had numerous meetings with people throughout the Valley trying to find a way to keep the team there.”
Rigby said it wasn’t until about six weeks ago he had to consider the reality of a move. Discussions with CenturyLink Arena “were very good,” he said, but extending the lease in a manner beneficial to the franchise was difficult. The Idaho Steelheads are and will be the primary tenant, drawing larger crowds with many weekend home games.
Nampa’s Idaho Center, which was the Stampede’s home from 1997-2005, was a consideration, but a lack of video capabilities and a layout not ideal for basketball ruled it out as an option. Rigby also was part of conversations to potentially build a new facility in Meridian, but “economically, it wasn’t viable.”
“When it was all out on the table, the extra layer of costs made it tough, and we had a great combination of positives in Salt Lake City,” Rigby said.
The Stars will play at Salt Lake Community College’s Bruin Arena, which seats up to 5,000. The facility also houses a practice gym. The Stampede practiced at CenturyLink Arena when it was available and the Boys & Girls Club of Ada County in Garden City when it was not.
According to Rigby, “no question one of the largest draws was the convenience.” Communication from the Jazz and its coaches to the D-League team in theory should be easier.
Monday’s move is hardly unprecedented, as D-League affiliates have begun to move closer to their parent clubs. The Oklahoma City Thunder moved their team from Tulsa to Oklahoma City in 2014, the expansion Raptors 905 play 20 miles from Toronto, the Texas Legends play about 30 miles from the Dallas Mavericks, and the Los Angeles D-Fenders play home games at the Lakers’ practice facility.
“The close relationship will strengthen our team on the court by providing our younger players a chance to grow in an environment that is consistent with Jazz basketball,” General Manager Dennis Lindsey said in a statement. “Additionally, it serves as a training ground for all aspects of our organization, from coaches to support personnel.”
Lindsey pointed to Tibor Pleiss, who was sent to the Stampede five times this season, as the sort of player who would benefit, saying “he can play a game with the Salt Lake City Stars on Thursday, and then stay in town and play with the Utah Jazz on Friday and Saturday. It's a huge advantage, logistically.”
The Stampede’s season concluded with a 20-30 record. One of the oldest continuously-operating minor league basketball teams in the United States, the Stampede began play in 1997 as a member of the Continental Basketball Association, moving into the NBA D-League in 2006.
For the time being, there will be no minor-league basketball in Boise, though Rigby said he “has the utmost respect” for the basketball fans in the Treasure Valley and hopes to maintain ties, possibly holding some sort of events. The Portland Trail Blazers do not have a D-League affiliate, though they had a two-year single-affiliate partnership that ended in 2014.
“There’s some egg on everyone’s face,” Ilett said. “Teams are lined up to get franchises in their cities, so I don’t think Boise will get another chance. Just a sad day.”
A look at the Salt Lake City Stars uniforms:
Video from Monday’s press conference in Salt Lake City:
Stampede in Idaho
- Began play in 1997 in Continental Basketball Association, moved to NBA D-League in 2006
- Reached CBA/D-League playoffs seven times, none since 2008-09 season; won 2007-08 D-League title
- Retired numbers: No. 11, Roberto Bergersen (team-record 2,286 points in five seasons); No. 32, Randy Livingston (2006-07 D-League MVP and coach from 2010-12)
- Other notable former players: Patty Mills, San Antonio Spurs guard (2009-10); Antoine Walker, three-time NBA All-Star (2010-12); Mike Taylor, first player to be drafted out of D-League (2007-08); Larry Krystkowiak, Utah Utes coach (1997-98 as player, 2003-04 as coach); Coby Karl, former Boise State and NBA guard (2008-10, 2012-13)