The Milwaukee Bucks announced that their D-League would be located in Oshkosh, but some questions still needed to be answered about the new Fox Valley team.
On Wednesday, the Milwaukee Bucks officially announced that Oshkosh would be home to the Bucks’ D-League team. Greg Pierce, who spearheaded the city’s push, had known Oshkosh had won out for a few months already, but couldn’t tell anyone quite yet.
"“We had began discussing details about finalizing the deal, this goes back to October, November,” Pierce said. “In terms of forming a business relationship, you know, you just have a lot of back-and-forth negotiations. You had, in this case, the league to deal with, because it was an expansion team you have to follow the process."
According to Pierce, both he and the Bucks are still undecided about if the team will be called Fox Valley or Oshkosh (plus the yet-to-be-picked nickname.)
"“To be honest, we’ve had along with Peter and a lot of other people in the Bucks, significant discussion about it,” Pierce said. “I’m torn, I mean I’m right down the middle. I could go either way on it. It’d be great to have Oshkosh in it, but also if you look at our market and what this team represents as part of the market it’s much broader than Oshkosh. For us to be successful, we’re relying on support from Fond Du Lac, Appleton, Neenah, Menasha, up and down the Valley.”"
Bucks Director of Communications Mark Rosenberg also said no decision on the name has been made yet, and that the organization invites fans to continue making their best suggestions.
"“We haven’t finalized anything with respect to the team’s name,” Rosenberg said. “We’ve received a lot of great suggestions from the local community and encourage fans to continue visiting www.foxvalleybasketball.com to submit their ideas.”"
Pierce said the decision would come by April, in part because of a league mandate.
"“I think there almost has to be [a decision on the name] by the end of March,” Pierce said. “I think the league is actually going to require that. I would hope in the next six weeks there is definitely an announcement on the name.”"
Pierce said he didn’t want to reveal any of his favorite suggestions for potential nicknames, but that the shortlist is currently made up of some deer references locals will understand, some off-the-wall names, and one historic reference in specific.
"“The Flyers are on the short list,” Pierce said. “That name started right away, just because of the history here. With the aviation background and the city and all that it does make sense.”"
The Greater Oshkosh Economic Development Corporation was instrumental in assisting Pierce and the Fox Valley Professional Basketball group with this project since January 2016 by working with local government and conducting research to formulate Oshkosh’s pitch.
GO-EDC CEO Jason White said the presence of the team in the Fox Valley means it will receive fan support no matter the name that is chosen.
"“We’re excited to have a hometown professional basketball team here that we can call our own,” White said. “You know, that’s pretty exciting for Oshkosh and for the Fox Valley, and certainly it’s our Oshkosh hometown team. Whatever [the name] happens to be, we’ll rally behind it and support it 100 percent.”"
The Bucks began allowing fans to reserve seats in the yet-to-be-constructed arena on Wednesday. Pierce said by Friday, hundreds of fans had already reserved their seats, with hundreds more making inquiries that the Bucks were addressing individually.
"“In the first 48 hours I believe they were just shy of 300 already,” Pierce said."
White said the Fox Valley’s long-standing basketball culture helped get the Bucks D-League team to Oshkosh.
"“The Fox Valley being so strong with respect to basketball, whether it’s high school or professional ranks or whatever, there’s a lot of enthusiasm for basketball,” White said. “I think there’s a lot of hunger from Oshkosh residents to have a team like this to support. There were a lot of people that came out early and said they’d be willing to buy tickets or even season tickets.”"
According to Pierce, although the expectation is that the arena will be done on time for the 2017-18 D-League season, there have been steps taken to ensure the team can start play even if weather or construction delays affect the arena.
"“We had asked for the D-League in scheduling that they put us on the road for the first two weeks, and we were told they would. That’ll back us up until late November. If we still have a problem, we have a couple of locations here, otherwise we can just play in the Bradley Center if we have to for a game or two. We have a couple places as backup.”"
Pierce said the Bradley Center made for a good plan B because he wants the team’s first game in Oshkosh to be at the new arena, and cited a successful game the Golden State Warriors D-League team held in their arena in Oakland recently as an example of how the NBA franchise arena hosting a D-League game can work well.
"“The Santa Cruz Warriors had a game over the weekend in Oakland and they had 17,000 people that showed up,” Pierce said. “So it’s not really that big of a deal if we have to play one game or something in the Bradley Center.”"
Rosenberg said the team expects everything to be ready to go for the 2017-18 D-League season, including excited fans in the Fox Valley.
"“It’s certainly an aggressive timeline for us to be up and running for the start of the 2017-18 season, but we will be ready,” Rosenberg said. “Based on the incredible support we’ve seen in Oshkosh leading up to and during last week’s announcement, we know the fans will be ready, too.”"
Pierce said the franchise is hiring a president for the D-League team that will be located in Oshkosh.
"“The Bucks are in the middle of hiring a president for the basketball side of things, and that person will be located here,” Pierce said."
Rosenberg said putting together a strong staff is a priority for the franchise, and that some hirings would be announced fairly soon.
"“For this team to be successful on the court and in the community, we’ll need talented and driven individuals leading the charge,” Rosenberg said. “We look forward to announcing some of the leadership roles in the near future, and anticipate hiring additional roles later this spring and summer.”"
Pierce said he would not be pursuing a job within the D-League team, and his involvement would come as owner both of the arena and of a share of the team.
The Bucks held a youth basketball camp with legendary players like Bob Dandridge in Oshkosh last week, and fans who reserve tickets for the D-League team are currently also able to receive free Bucks tickets.
According to Pierce, that’s just the beginning of the relationship between the Fox Valley and the Milwaukee Bucks.
"“We’re part of the family now,” Pierce said. “They’re our partners … this is going to be Bucks north.”"