by Mike Sharkey
The Jacksonville Jam, the newest addition to the American Basketball Association, will make its debut in November and play 18 homes games in the University of North Florida’s Arena.
Jam owner Felix Krupczynski said the team will play in the Southeast Division of the ABA, which also includes Tampa, Columbia, S.C., Birmingham and West Palm Beach.
Krupczynski is a former executive with Parker Vision and also spent 20 years with Motorola. He lives in Mandarin.
The Jam is yet another minor league basketball team to try and make it in Jacksonville. The last team — the Jacksonville Wave — ended up playing “home” games in Brunswick and quickly folded.
Krupczynski said he has put together a group with local ties (The Robin Shepherd Group will handle marketing) and intends to create an event out of each game. Thirteen of the 18 home games are on Friday nights while the other five are on Sunday during football season. He said that each home game will feature everything from fan giveaways to an opportunity to eventually try out for “American Idol” to the chance to actually play for the Jam during a game.
“We want a blend of a quality basketball organization with a sports and entertainment organization,” Krupczynski told the Jacksonville Economic Development Commission’s Sports and Entertainment Board at its meeting on Tuesday morning. “We want fans to say, ‘That was fun. When is the next game?’ We intend to keep the games affordable and draw the family as a fan.”
Michael Bouda of the Sports Board said Krupczynski is well-credentialed and has a good plan in place.
“If he can’t make it, I’m not sure who would,” said Bouda. “He gave us the full-fledged presentation a few weeks ago, that’s why we brought him before our board. I think he knows what he’s getting into and he’s doing it the right way.”
According to Krupczynski, the ABA (NBA Hall of Famers Julius Erving, Artis Gilmore and George Gervin all started their careers in the ABA before the league was absorbed by the NBA in 1975) has 60 teams and is “the fastest-growing league in the nation.” He plans to play the first two seasons at UNF before moving to the Veterans Memorial Arena.
Krupczynski believes the “Game Day Jam” will appeal to entire families. Part of each game will include: the chance for fans to participate in the pregame lay-up drill with the team, three fans will get the chance to win $100 by making a shot from midcourt during half-time and even play with the team. The ABA has a stipulation that each team may add an 11th non-roster player for its home games.
“If they are physically capable of playing and if we are up by enough, they can get in the game,” said Krupczynski.
Other items of note from the Sports Board meeting:
• Sports Board Director Mike Sullivan said he turned in the City’s bid to the NCAA to host first round men’s basketball games again in either 2009 or 2010. He said the NCAA has verified it received the bid and that all indications are from sources inside and outside the NCAA that everyone was pleased with how things went in March. Sullivan said he expects a decision from the NCAA in July.
• The ACC baseball tournament is next week and the dinner reception is Monday evening at the Baseball Grounds. As far as tickets go, the Sports Board is splitting theirs with JEDC Executive Director Ron Barton, who plans to take various developers to the games.
• There won’t be a basketball tournament associated with this year’s Gator Bowl football game. It’s too late to schedule teams so the Sports Board is shooting for the next year.
• April’s baseball game between UNF and UF at the Baseball Grounds proved a success. The JEDC, the teams and the Jacksonville Suns all cleared about $3,000 and the City made another $8,000 off parking and concessions. Sullivan said, “UNF couldn’t be happier” about how things turned out.
• Florida State asked the Sports Board to bid on hosting the 2008 ACC women’s golf tournament. Sullivan said he isn’t sure which local course may host the matches, but he does prefer it be a Duval County course.
• It would be a stretch, but the city may host an NBA exhibition game this fall. Sullivan said he has contacted Otis Smith, who is from Jacksonville and was recently named general manager of the Orlando Magic, about bringing the Magic to town for a game. “We would turn it into an Otis Smith Night to mark the great strides he’s made as a Jacksonville athlete,” said Sullivan. “I am not sure about this coming preseason, but next year is a possibility.”
• Don’t hold your breath for an NHL exhibition game anytime soon. The Sports Board is working with Ron Duguay, the former Jacksonville Barracudas coach who spent several years in the NHL, to possibly bring the New York Rangers (one of Duguay’s teams) for a game. However, the Rangers want $250,000 to play here and that’s too much. “We couldn’t possibly make that much back unless we filled the Arena and then some,” said Sullivan.
• The Sports Board does plan to submit a bid to host the SEC women’s basketball tournament in 2011. Sports Board Chairman Ron Salem also suggested looking into hosting the ACC women’s tournament considering Jacksonville’s growing ties with the conference.
• UF and FSU may play a baseball game here next year. “We hope to have it signed, sealed and delivered in the not-too-distant future,” said Sullivan.