MONTPELIER, Vt. (AP) – A reporter for Sports Illustrated is planning to start a pro basketball team in Barre, Vermont, next year and file regular dispatches to the magazine and SI.com with stories about the team.

The Vermont Frost Heaves will play its home games at the Barre Auditorium and elsewhere in Vermont as a member of the on-again, off-again American Basketball Association.

“The Frost Heaves will be built for both the 21st century and the state they call home: part reality-series, part high-tech demonstration project, part New England town meeting, part local hero,” Alexander Wolff, who lives in Cornwall, wrote for the Dec. 19 issue of Sports Illustrated.

Wolff is holding a news conference Wednesday at the 1,650-seat Barre Auditorium where he will unveil more details about the team

In its five years, about 40 ABA players have gone on to play in the National Basketball Association, Wolff said.

“There are three or four leagues in the second echelon; this is one of them,” Wolff said. “It’s fast-paced basketball. They can shoot, play defense. We have to put together a competitive team. I think we can be competitive without bringing in 12 ringers.”

In his essay, Wolff said he got the idea for the team while listening to an NBA official complain about the growth of the ABA. The cost of a franchise is about $10,000.

“For that, I could start a team,” Wolff quoted himself as thinking.

A year later he’s set to roll out the team, which will play some of its games at the 1,650-seat Barre Auditorium, which Wolff compared to a barn that has lost its animals. He’s also talking about playing at Burlington’s Memorial Auditorium.

“I’ve always been a sucker for old gyms. These buildings that have been around forever, generations come and go but the ball is still bouncing around inside them,” Wolff said. “It’s a way to keep downtowns alive.”

Wolff said Sports Illustrated wasn’t sinking money into the team, although the magazine’s art director is helping design the team logo and it will provide him space in the magazine and on the Web site to write about the Frost Heaves.

Wolff’s goal is to get the team on its feet so that in two or three years he can turn at least part of it over to the fans so it could be held as a community trust.

He’s promising to sell local food at the concession stands and bring vitality back to Vermont’s village centers.

“As almost everything Americans consume, from food to media, gets more homogenized and shipped in from farther away, Vermonters will respond to a team with homegrown players at its core, in the same way they shop at farmers’ markets and listen to locally programmed radio,” Wolff wrote.

The original ABA existed from 1967 to 1976 when it merged with the National Basketball Association.

The ABA was reborn for the 2000-2001 season. The ABA Web site says the league took the 2002-2003 “season off to reorganize.”

Now the ABA now has teams from coast to coast and in Mexico, Canada, Hawaii and one from Beijing. It’s organized in eight divisions.

The Frost Heaves would play in the Roger Brown Division with teams from Boston, Montreal, Newark and Harlem.

Wolff said his goal as a team president would be to follow the ABA’s business model: “Set the barrier to entry so low that a team pops up on every corner, then cluster play regionally to control travel costs. Cap player payrolls at $120,000 per team. Flog tickets, merchandise and sponsorships, and all of a sudden pro basketball looks sustainable, even with fewer than 2,000 fans a game.”



On the Net:

Vermont Frost Heaves: www.vermontfrostheaves.com

ABA: http://www.abalive.com/

AP-ES-12-13-05 1657EST


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