Which City In Washington Should Host an NBA DL Team?

In my article from last week, I talked about my desire for Chris Hansen to establish an NBA DL franchise in the State of Washington, once an NBA team is re-established in Seattle. Specifically, I was pining for the return of the Yakima Sun Kings, who won five CBA championships in their existence.

Due to population size and airport issues, I also noted that Yakima might not be the best choice for a franchise. We had a good conversation about potential sites, which included Yakima, Tri Cities, Spokane, Vancouver, Bellingham, Wenatchee, and Kent.

I would like to delve a little deeper in that conversation by answering three questions. Specifically, what is the average population of NBA DL host cities? What is their average attendance? How do the Washington cities above compare?

Using population information from city-data.com and 2011-12 attendance information from Wikipedia (http://goo.gl/Dq3WP), I compiled the following summary for all of the NBA DL teams to answer the first two questions.

NBA Developmental League – Attendance and Population

Team

City

Population

Average Attendance

EASTERN CONFERENCE

Springfield Armor

Springfield, MA

153,134

2,742

Dakota Wizards

Bismark, ND

61,575

2,563

Erie Bayhawks

Erie, PA

101,826

2,983

Canton Charge

Canton, OH

72,978

2,722

Iowa Energy

Des Moines, IA

204,191

4,306

Main Red Claws

Portland, ME

66,125

2,969

Sioux Falls Skyforce

Sioux Falls, SD

154,443

2,764

Fort Wayne Mad Ants

Fort Wayne, IN

254,015

2,946

WESTERN CONFERENCE

Los Angeles D-Fenders

Los Angeles, CA

3.7 million

218

(362 capacity)

Austin Toros

Cedar Park, TX

49,419

(close to Austin)

2,838

Bakersfield Jam

Bakersfield, CA

348,531

500

Texas Legends

Frisco, Tx

117,871

4,428

Rio Grande Valley Vipers

Hidalgo, TX

11,276

(7 miles from city of 100k)

4,817

Tulsa 66ers

Bixby, OK

20,954

(12 miles from Tulsa)

2,089

Reno Bighorns

Reno, NV

225,717

2,375

Idaho Stampede

Boise, ID

206,252

2,670

Excluding L.A. and Bakersfield (skews population up and attendance down), the average population of an NBA DL city is 142,777 and the average attendance of an NBA DL team is 3,235.

So how do the Washington cities we discussed measure up? I here is another summary using information from city-data.com

City

Population

Yakima 91,509
Tri Cities (Kennewick, Richland, Pasco) 195,373
Spokane 209,296
Vancouver 162,432
Bellingham 81,069
Wenatchee (including East Wenatchee) 45,300
Kent 118,929

Based on these numbers, I think we can rule out Wenatchee. Sorry Kevin. It's just way too small of a population to host a team.

Bellingham, Yakima, and Kent also fall below the average population for an NBA DL city, but not enough to dismiss out of hand. Kent, of course, is part of a much larger population base any way.

It deserves noting that the Yakima Sun Kings were known to average 3,700 in attendance, which is above the current NBA DL average. I believe the attendance tapered off after Y2K, however.

The Tri Cities Chinook (CBA) also did well with an average attendance of 4,268.

It should also be noted that being part of a huge population center doesn't necessarily equate to good attendance. Some abscure Texas towns had very good attendance, while L.A. and Bakersfield had very poor attendance.

Could it be that there are too many things to do in a very large city for developmental basketball to be successful? If so, that might be cause for concern for cities like Vancouver (so close to Portland) and Kent (so close to Seattle).

So which city should get a team? My heart still says Yakima because I'm a Yakima boy and the Sun Kings have a successful tradition. My head, however, would lean toward the Tri Cities. They have a larger population base than Yakima, a richer population than Yakima, and a more recent history of supporting other minor league sports.

I don't know enough about the other cities to weigh in. Let's discuss it.

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