After 30 years of trying, Memphis finally has a major-sports franchise.
The NBA on Tuesday approved the relocation of the Vancouver Grizzlies to Memphis, an announcement that wasn't a surprise but was definitely a relief for those who have spent months wooing the league and team.
One of the cities Memphis beat out was Anaheim.
"We are elated," Memphis Mayor Willie Herenton said. "A number of citizens, as well as elected officials, have worked very hard to make this dream of an NBA franchise for Memphis a reality."
The league's relocation committee gave its approval last week and Grizzly boosters held a relocation party Saturday. The move wasn't official, however, until the NBA board voted and made its announcement.
"We look forward to making Memphis our new home," Grizzly owner Michael Heisley said in a statement.
Memphis previously attracted teams only from second-tier leagues, such as the World Football League, the United States Football League, the Canadian Football League, the American Basketball Assn. and the XFL.
After Nashville got an NFL team in 1997, Memphis set its sites on the NBA, stepping up efforts this year when Heisley said he wanted to leave Vancouver.
An NBA "pursuit team," led by AutoZone founder J.R. "Pitt" Hyde, lured the Grizzlies away from five competing cities. Besides Anaheim, the other cities were Las Vegas, St. Louis, New Orleans and Louisville.
Hyde's group will buy up to 50% of the team.
"It's time now to turn our focus to building a competitive basketball team that will be a positive force in the city," Hyde said.
NBA boosters promised the league a new $250-million arena and completed financing plans last week that sidestepped a possible vote by the public. Financing depends primarily on sales tax rebates, government-backed bonds and hotel and car rental taxes.
As originally planned, property taxes would have guaranteed some of the funding, but that could have led to an election and a delay in getting the team before next season.
The Grizzlies will play at the Pyramid, a 10-year-old arena along the Memphis riverfront, while the new downtown stadium is built. Completion is expected by 2004.
Shane Battier, the college player of the year at Duke and first-round draft pick for the Grizzlies last Wednesday, said he was pleased with the move and plans to live in Memphis.
"If it wasn't a great city, I might make my residence elsewhere. But from my first night in town I have picked up some really positive vibes," said Battier, who arrived in Memphis just after the draft.
Living in Memphis, he said, might also help win over new fans for the team and make the move successful.
"We're all in this together," he said.
The Grizzlies have been acting as if Memphis was their home since last month, when they moved their basketball operations to the city.
They set up headquarters for the draft at the Peabody Hotel in downtown Memphis.
The Grizzlies started their rookie camp Tuesday at Rhodes College, a private school in Memphis.
"What makes me happy and makes me comfortable is getting in the gym and working with our players," Coach Sidney Lowe said. "I'm glad it's all over and now we're back to work."
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On the Move
NBA franchise changes:
became Milwaukee Hawks
moved to St. Louis
moved to Cincinnati
1958--Fort Wayne Pistons
moved to Detroit
moved to Los Angeles
moved to San Francisco
became Baltimore Bullets
became the Philadelphia 76ers
1968--St. Louis Hawks
moved to Atlanta
1971--San Diego Rockets
moved to Houston
1971--San Francisco Warriors
moved to Oakland
became the K.C.-Omaha Kings
moved to Washington
1977--New York Nets
moved to New Jersey
became the San Diego Clippers
1979--New Orleans Jazz
moved to Utah
1984--San Diego Clippers
moved to Los Angeles
1985--Kansas City Kings
moved to Sacramento
moved to Memphis