The future of the Olympia Reign, one of the area’s semi-professional men’s basketball teams, is in limbo after its main sponsor – Little Creek Casino and Squaxin Island Tribe – pulled its sponsorship.
Owner Mark Felton said that unless a major sponsorship or new ownership comes through in the next few weeks, the Reign is done. The 2013 season is scheduled to begin in mid-April.
“They thought it didn’t make much business sense to continue to do it,” Felton said.
The news came as a stunner for Felton, an Olympia small business owner who started the Reign in 2008 and watched it become a full-fledged member of the International Basketball League (IBL) in 2010.
In 2012, with Little Creek starting its second season of full sponsorship, the Reign moved into the Skookum Creek Events Center near Shelton for its home games.
Felton said the casino spent “a few thousand … dollars” to house the Reign at the Shelton-based casino with the addition of a basketball court and other amenities.
The Reign drew an average of 400 fans each home game with a few games topping 1,000 fans, Felton said. Before that, the Reign
played at The Evergreen State College for four seasons.
“Our following was getting stronger every year,” Felton said.
As for the players on the Reign’s roster, many of them have local ties – including Nate Menefee, Mike Ward and Nick Moore, all of whom played at Evergreen.
Felton said plans are in the works to have players compete for other teams in the region, such as Bellingham or Portland, but many players live and work in the Olympia area.
Felton expressed nothing but gratitude for supporters of the Reign.
“I would like to thank the sponsors, coaches, players, and especially the fans, for all their support over the past six years,” he said.
Should the Reign fold, that leaves the Olympia Rise as the only men’s semi-pro basketball team in the area. The Rise is in its inaugural season and plays its home games at Evergreen.Meg Wochnick: 360-754-5473 firstname.lastname@example.org theolympian.com/southsoundsports