Developers of Santa Ana's Westdome took a major step in their attempt to bring a National Basketball Assn. team to Orange County Friday when they announced their intention to file a formal application for an expansion franchise, to be accompanied by a check for $100,000, the application fee required by the NBA.
Allan Durkovic, managing partner of the Westdome group, said the application will be sent to the office of NBA Commissioner David Stern on Monday, along with the check, which will be delivered carefully taped to an official NBA basketball. Said Robert Osbrink, one of the Westdome partners: "Only the ball bounces."
Westdome investors are attempting to either lure an existing NBA franchise or obtain an expansion team to play in the proposed $35-million complex. NBA officials have indicated that league expansion could occur as early as the 1986-87 season. Ground-breaking for construction of the Westdome is scheduled next April, and construction is projected to be completed by the fall of 1987.
Santa Ana is one of several cities being mentioned as possible sites for an NBA expansion team. Miami and Tampa, Fla.; Charlotte, N.C.; Minneapolis-St. Paul, and Toronto are among the other cities that have expressed an interest in becoming home to an NBA team.
"There's some good competition . . . some good markets," Durkovic said. "But none as good as this market."
The $100,000 application fee would not be refunded to the Westdome investors if Santa Ana is not chosen. But as Durkovic has stressed since this venture began last summer, Westdome officials are trying to explore every available avenue to bring an NBA team to Orange County.
"With this announcement, we are covering all the bases," Durkovic said.
Lee Johnson, vice mayor of Santa Ana, said the application represents a firm commitment on the part of the Westdome partners.
"One of the criticisms I ran into (in the community) was, 'If these people are serious, why don't they put up some money,' " Johnson said. "I think when you put up $100,000 that you're not going to get back, that's the beginning of a serious effort."
The NBA hasn't expanded since 1980, when Dallas was included to form a 23-team league. Stern has indicated that the earliest the league could vote on expansion is at its All-Star game meetings in 1986.