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T-Birds Sold, Moving to Ohio

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — NBA’s Cleveland Cavaliers Buy the D-League Team From the Bregmans, Will Move It to Canton, Ohio

 

 

The New Mexico Thunderbirds are flying the coop.

The Cleveland Cavaliers have bought the NBA Thunderbirds and will move the D-League team to Canton, Ohio, beginning with the 2011-12 season.

The sale – announced Thursday – marks the end of the Thunderbirds’ six-year run in New Mexico. Local attorney Sam Bregman, who owned the team with his wife, Jackie, said the sale was bittersweet but also the right move for everyone involved.

T-Birds timeline
2005: Franchise relocates to Albuquerque from Huntsville, Ala., and signs to play its games at Tingley Coliseum.
2006: Thunderbirds win the NBA D-League championship.
2009: Sam and Jackie Bregman, minority owners since 2006, buy the team outright.
2010: The team is rebranded as the New Mexico Thunderbirds and begins playing its games at the Santa Ana Star Center in Rio Rancho.
2011: Cleveland Cavaliers buy the franchise and move it to Canton, Ohio.Here are some of the Albuquerque-area’s pro franchises that have come and gone:
Basketball
New Mexico Slam, 1999-2001
Albuquerque Silvers, 1980-82
Hockey
New Mexico Scorpions, 1996-2009
Albuquerque Chaparrals, 1975-77
Albuquerque Six Guns, 1973-74
Soccer
Albuquerque Geckos, 1997-98
New Mexico Chiles, 1990-96
Volleyball
Albuquerque Lazers, 1979

“It was good for the league, it’s good for the Cleveland Cavaliers – more and more NBA teams are purchasing D-League teams to help with player development – and we’re in a position that it made sense for us as well,” Sam Bregman said.

Bregman would not disclose the terms of the deal or discuss whether any other offers were made. The Bregmans in March announced discussions with “a number of prospective investors” and sought others who might be interested in the team.

The Cavaliers will fully own and control the business and basketball operations of the team, becoming the fifth NBA franchise to have such an arrangement with a D-League team.

“Player development is at the core of our process and being able to operate our own franchise so close to home will place us in the most strategic position to take an active part in the player development process,” Cavaliers General Manager Chris Grant said in a news release.

The Bregmans bought minority ownership of the T-Birds during the team’s inaugural season (2005-06) – the year the franchise won the D-League championship under coach and former Lobo standout Michael Cooper. The couple became the sole owners upon buying the team outright from David Kahn in 2009.

The onetime Albuquerque Thunderbirds became the New Mexico Thunderbirds for the 2010-11 season after a move from Tingley Coliseum to the Santa Ana Star Center in Rio Rancho. Tingley Coliseum “is a very old building” and didn’t inspire much enthusiasm among basketball fans, Bregman said. He called the Star Center “beautiful” but said its relative remoteness was an issue for some fans.

Bregman cited the lack of a modern Albuquerque sports arena as an ongoing problem for the franchise and said he believes the city needs to build one.

“I don’t think it’s any secret we’ve had our challenges with the venue,” he said.

The Thunderbirds averaged approximately 2,000 fans per home game last season, a number Bregman said was in line with each previous year of the franchise.

Bregman called the 2006 title the highlight of the T-Birds’ run but said he also took great joy in meeting passionate basketball fans and getting the players out to community events.

If an arena one day gets built in Albuquerque, he and Jackie might consider another go at pro sports ownership, he said.

“If there’s another opportunity that makes sense and this community puts together a venue that make sense, we’ll take another look at things,” Bregman said. “We’re big sports fans, and I think as far as quality of life, sports is extremely important for this community.”

The move will cost the financially troubled 6,500-seat Star Center one of its two anchor tenants. The loss means prime weekend nights are now open, which Star Center General Manager Gunnar Fox could be a positive development for the other tenant, the New Mexico Mustangs hockey team, and for the venue itself.

“We have those open desirable dates to be able to do things that will produce revenue for the city,” Fox said.

Bye, Bye, T-BirdsNBA’s Cleveland Cavaliers Buy the D-League Team From the Bregmans, Will Move It to Canton, Ohiojim thompson/journal The Thunderbirds moved to Rio Rancho’s Santa Ana Star Center last season in an attempt to revive the NBA D-League franchise. Thursday it was announced that the team has been bought by the Cleveland Cavaliers and will move to Canton, Ohio.T-Birds timeline 2005: Franchise relocates to Albuquerque from Huntsville, Ala., and signs to play its games at Tingley Coliseum. 2006: Thunderbirds win the NBA D-League championship. 2009: Sam and Jackie Bregman, minority owners since 2006, buy the team outright. 2010: The team is rebranded as the New Mexico Thunderbirds and begins playing its games at the Santa Ana Star Center in Rio Rancho. 2011: Cleveland Cavaliers buy the franchise and move it to Canton, Ohio.Here are some of the Albuquerque-area’s pro franchises that have come and gone: Basketball New Mexico Slam, 1999-2001 Albuquerque Silvers, 1980-82 Hockey New Mexico Scorpions, 1996-2009 Albuquerque Chaparrals, 1975-77 Albuquerque Six Guns, 1973-74 Soccer Albuquerque Geckos, 1997-98 New Mexico Chiles, 1990-96 Volleyball Albuquerque Lazers, 1979

Other franchises
— This article appeared on page D1 of the Albuquerque Journal

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