IBL Wants One Of Its Teams In GR

June 18, 2004
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GRAND RAPIDS — Although it’s not a slam-dunk deal, the commissioner of the new International Basketball League feels Grand Rapids is a must-have for the league’s initial season.

“I want to make a team come here. This city is important,” said Mikel Dullio, who not only heads the fledgling  professional league but also founded it.

Dullio brought his background of 18 years in sports management to town last week to raise interest in and find owners for an IBL franchise here. The Iowa State graduate, who said he operates the world’s largest recreational basketball league out of Portland, Ore., said the IBL has a few advantages going for it that others don’t have.

First is a faster-paced and “off-guard heavy” game with fewer timeouts and the instant inbound. Second is games are played after March Madness — in April, May and June — when dedicated hardwood fans have time on their hands. Third is the schedule.

“The schedule is so efficient, it’s ridiculous. It’s the most efficient schedule that’s been created,” said Dullio last week.

If all goes as planned, the initial IBL season will have 12 franchises and each franchise will play a 20-game season starting next April. Each team will have 10 home games and 10 away games. But only once a season would a team be required to fly, and that would be for a four-game “road” trip. Other away games would be within driving distance.

“It’s great for the owners with only one long trip where they don’t spend the night at home,” said Dullio.

Dullio, who is backing the league with his own money, said an owner only has to sell 800 tickets to each home game to break even. Tickets carry a suggested price of $7. Dullio added that the average annual operating cost for a IBL franchise should be about $90,000.

The league has posted a 31-page business plan on its Web site. Part of that plan estimates revenues and expenses for a franchise’s first two seasons. Revenue in year one should reach $91,000 based on selling 800 tickets to each home game, and $136,000 in year two based on selling 1,200 tickets for each home game.

The revenue estimate doesn’t include income from broadcast rights, merchandise and program sales, or concession sales.

Expenses total $84,582 in the first year and $91,382 in the second season. The biggest expense isn’t for players, who should be former high school and local college stars, but for the yearly rights fee to the league: $17,000. Whoever sells the tickets gets $14,800, while the cost for a 12-player roster should run $14,560.

Under the league’s business plan, an owner earns $6,418 in the first season and $91,382 in the second season. Those figures are based on a franchise being part of a four-team cluster, meaning four franchises are within a tank of gas of each other.

Dullio said the cost of a year-one license fee, similar to a franchise fee, runs $45,000 with $20,000 due up front and the remaining $25,000 due over the five following seasons. The license fee, though, isn’t binding.

“If an owner can’t make it, why should he pay me?” asked Dullio.

For more information on the business plan, the league and an application, go to the Web site at www.iblhoopsonline.com or call (503) 254-4858. Dullio wants to have owners on board by November, but can accept a franchise application as late as February.

“We’ve got a pretty aggressive marketing effort and the teams should sell.”

Dullio said he has verbal commitments from three cities in the Pacific Northwest, Peoria, Ill., and Waterloo, Iowa. After he made his pitch here, Dullio was headed to Kalamazoo,  Flint, Dayton and Toledo. He hopes to have four clusters with five teams in each one, and he sees Grand Rapids as the anchor franchise for the cluster in Michigan and Ohio.

“I believe we’ll get owners. It’s that clean of a model,” said Dullio. “This is an ideal city.”   

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