NILES - The Cleveland Cavaliers may use the Mayor Ralph A. Infante Wellness Center as a practice and training site for a Developmental League, or D-League, affiliate.
The deal seems to hinge on two factors - the Cavaliers developing a D-League team to move to the Covelli Centre in Youngstown for their home games and making it so the team's play doesn't conflict with the Youngstown Phantom Hockey league schedule, which plays during the same period over the fall, winter and early spring months.
Earlier reports that the Cavs' D-League affiliate Erie BayHawks would move to the Covelli Centre were false. The BayHawks announced Wednesday that they were ending their association with the Cavs and joining the New York Knicks. The BayHawks lead local investor said early this week the team would not leave Erie, Pa.'s Tulio Arena.
The Mayor Ralph A. Infante Wellness Center in Niles may become a training facility for a Cleveland Cavaliers Development League team.
Tribune Chronicle / Raymond L. Smith
Niles Mayor Ralph Infante said representatives with the Cavaliers contacted the city about a week ago about using the Wellness Center in Waddell Park. The Cavaliers would require space for its coaches and trainers, locker facilities for its players and possibly a regulation-size, wooden court.
"Everything is dependent on what happens with the Cavaliers' negotiations with the Covelli Centre," Infante said. "It would be a perfect fit for us. They would be here during a time of the year when there is not a lot of people using the basketball court."
He cautioned, however, that any deal would have to be beneficial for the Wellness Center - that if the center were to invest any money into upgrades, it would have to get its money back in one way or another.
"Cavaliers representatives toured the center and, I'm told, liked it," Infante said. "I don't know how many other places they are looking at for a practice facility."
Because an agreement in Niles would be contingent on what happens in Youngstown, Infante said the two sides have not begun conversations about any accommodations that must be made at the center or financial considerations.
Infante said, if a deal is struck, the city may have to add a room and some additional locker facilities.
"Of course, our concern would be getting a return on our investment," Infante said.
Eric Ryan, a manager with the Covelli Centre, 229 E. Front St., said officials there have been in very early and preliminary discussions with the Cavaliers about a D-League team moving to Youngstown.
"There has been no timeline to the discussions," Ryan said. "We've been in contact with the Cavaliers for a few weeks. They've toured the facilities and loved them."
There is a concern that the NBA's D-League coincides with the United States Hockey League. The USHL's Phantoms play home games at the Covelli Centre. The Phantoms, owned by local entrepreneur Bruce Zoldan, is entering the third year of a four-year contract with the Covelli Centre.
Cavaliers spokesman Tad Capers on Wednesday said the team is looking at multiple options. Ridiculous Upside, an NBA D-League website, reported a possible New Mexico Thunderbirds sale to the Cavaliers and relocation to the Youngstown venue. However, there has been no confirmation from the Cavaliers or Thunderbirds, currently a D-League team shared by the New Orleans Hornets and Orlando Magic.
There were 16 Development League teams at the beginning of the 2010-11 basketball season, many shared by multiple NBA teams. The Cavs, for example, shared the Bayhawks with the Toronto Raptors.
The D-League is a springboard for basketball talent not yet ready for the NBA.