Olympia Reign planning to play full IBL schedule

OLYMPIA - Mark Felton's dream of bringing a professional basketball team to Olympia has come true.

The Olympia Reign will play its first 25-game season in the International Basketball League, a six-year-old league with 16 teams across the country.

“This is something I’ve wanted to do,” Reign owner Felton said. “Some players asked me to do this a couple of years ago. I’m just trying to give them an opportunity.”

After playing a partial schedule the past two years, the Reign will begin its three-month season April 16 at home against the Tacoma Tide.

“We’re excited,” Felton said. “It’s a lot of fun putting together a team.”

Steve Smothers, a former Saint Martin’s University player, will coach the team.

“Steve has great leadership attributes,” Felton said. “He has the respect of all the players.”

Much of the team will consist of former players from Saint Martin’s and The Evergreen State College. Michael Ward, Marcus Wright, Bill Richardson, Larry Moore, Nick Moore and Jimmy Anderson are on the roster.

Two other IBL teams are located in the state: the Vancouver Volcanoes and Bellingham Slam.

The Los Angeles Lightning, led by former NBA player Bryon Russell, won the IBL championship last year and will play the Reign in Olympia in June. A Chinese national team also will play in the league this season and will visit Olympia on May 19 and June 17.

Felton had planned on playing home games at the Nisqually Tribe’s new 34,000 square-foot Tribal Center. But the facility isn’t available, and he’s now considering South Puget Sound Community College for practice and games.

“It’s stressful right now,” Felton said.

The Nisqually Tribe is the team’s primary sponsor, putting up $17,500. But after Felton paid the league’s $10,000 entrance fee, he’s left with $7,500 to cover travel, gym rental, insurance and referees.

“I’m still looking for sponsors,” Felton said.

To survive, Felton said the team needs to average about 300 paid customers, bringing in about $1,500 a game. The team drew 800 fans two years ago during a home game at Tumwater High School.

“I’m doing this for the love of the game,” said Felton, an insurance salesman. “I’m not in this to make money, but I’m not in it to lose money either.”

The Reign, which was named by Felton, lost all six of its games last season.

The IBL started in 2005 and plays under international rules. A 22-second shot clock is used, and teams averaged 126 points per game last year.

For more information or to become a sponsor, Felton can be reached at 360-956-2516.

Gail Wood: 360-754-5443