By: Dan Slaubaugh
Fargo. A city often associated with NDSU's iconic football team, which has won five straight FCS national championships. A city often associated with the American dark comedy thriller, "Fargo".
A city often associated with ... the Minnesota Timberwolves D-League affiliate?
Fargo, North Dakota makes a surprising amount of sense for a potential Wolves D-League affiliate destination. And I'm here to tell you why.
Glen Taylor (and Flip) has stated before that he may want the D-League team to reside in Minnesota. However, if he's open to the idea of it not being in Minnesota, Fargo makes a lot of sense.
The city of Fargo is located on the eastern side of North Dakota. It is only 1.3 miles away from the Minnesota border and 235.3 miles (about a 3 1/2 hour drive) away from Minneapolis. Sure, cities such as Rochester and Mankato would be closer to the Cities. But the one downside of destinations such as Rochester and Mankato is that they're only 90ish minutes from the real team in Minnesota. Ideally, you don't want to cut into either teams attendance that much by splitting up attendance between the two teams.
My last thought here is that putting the team in Fargo might benefit the northern Minnesotans, because frankly, there isn't a whole lot to do in Northern Minnesota.
Fargo, and the entire state of North Dakota, lives year round without a professional sports team. Because of that, college programs such as NDSU Football and University of North Dakota Hockey act as the state's professional sports teams and garner an enormous amount of attention from North Dakotans and other regional fans.
If North Dakota were granted a professional basketball team, is it really hard to imagine that North Dakotans would love having a D-League team in their state, once again?
Also, if you didn't know, North Dakota has already held a D-League team in Bismarck, the capital city of North Dakota. Acting as the D-League affiliate of the Golden State Warriors and Memphis Grizzlies from 2006-2012, it drew a fair amount of attendance/recognition in its short seven years averaging roughly 2,500 people (middle of the pack in today's D-League) during the tenure.
Bismarck, however, has roughly 45,000 fewer people than Fargo and fewer surrounding populated areas. So with the extra 45,000+ thousand people living in the Fargo area, they should easily draw an attendance of upwards 3,000, which would rank them near the top of D-League attendances today.
As a resident of Fargo, I have come to realize that this city is VERY passionate about their sports teams. I have no doubt that they would support a D-League team.
There are 2 possible arenas the team could play in. First, Scheels Arena in South Fargo. Second, NDSU's brand new basketball facility Scheels Center on the heart of NDSU's campus. (Yes, Scheels rules all in ND. And very weird and confusing how the two biggest sports arenas in Fargo are both sponsored by the same company.)
Here is an excerpt from Tim Faklis' article regarding ideas for potential D-League sites down the road.
"Scheels Arena is the home of the Fargo Force, a junior hockey team that garners a decent amount of attention in ND. So, they’re well-versed in minor league athletics – why not some hoops?"
Actually, they have hosted hoops the last 2 years with NDSU renting their building while their new arena was under construction.
Overall, it is a viable option for D-League basketball. With a seating capacity of 6,000, it would provide more than enough seating for this level of basketball.
The second option is the Scheels Center - NDSU's brand new basketball facility. This is probably the nicer arena out of the two.
With the arena being right on NDSU's campus, they would likely have a fair amount of college students attending the games.
Of course, this would all hinge on whether NDSU's Athletic Department would be willing to open up their facility and if the team could schedule around NDSU's Men's and Women's home games. But if they were, this is the best possible arena for a D-League team given it is made for hoops.
So, is Fargo a real possibility?
I believe it is. As you can see, the location, market, and arena are all proven commodities and make a lot of sense for a D-League team.
If I were to be completely honest, I think the only way Mankato doesn't get it is if Taylor and company decide it's too close and that both teams would be jeopardized regarding their attendance.
If they decide to go outside of Mankato, Fargo would be an obvious choice.