The corporation made up of the former owners of the Dodge City Legend is still intact, and so is their hope that semi-pro athletics may return to Dodge City at some point.


The corporation made up of the former owners of the Dodge City Legend is still intact, and so is their hope that semi-pro athletics may return to Dodge City at some point.
    But talks with teams from Wichita, Salina and Enid, Okla., stalled following the dissolution of the United States Basketball League after the 2007 season. That made it less and less likely that the basketball team that drew thousands to the Civic Center each year would ever take the floor again.
    "We really needed at least six teams," Dodge City Mayor Kent Smoll, a former member of the Legend's executive board, said earlier this week. "After that, the owners of the Dodge City Legend — we haven't even had our final meeting yet. We’re all just kind of are remorseful that it's over."
    Smoll said after the 2004 season, the ownership group was ready to call its association with the USBL a wrap. Teams on the East Coast started to fold after the 2003 season, and financial woes with individual teams out east and with the USBL office began to drain teams with sufficient capital.
    Teams like the Legend and the Kansas Cagerz, the Salina USBL franchise, routinely led the league in attendance during their tenure.
    But Smoll said during the 2004 season, he started receiving phone calls from other teams as games in the Midwest came up. Those teams said that they could only come and fulfill their game obligation if the home team would pay part of the travel expenses.
    "The Dodge City Legend was so generous that we would pay for teams to stay here two nights," said former part-owner Greg Goff. "We had the schedules that said there was going to be a game, so we felt like we owed it to the 1,200 to 1,500 fans."
    The USBL did not make teams owners put up a letter of capital to draw from if they ran short of funds, Smoll said.
    "It just became a joke," he added. "We were paying refs, paying other teams for travel expenses so we could get games in."
    Though the Legend was never a money-maker for the group of 13 owners, the USBL franchise remained a viable contender until the league dissolved following the 2007 season. The Legend won league titles in 2000, 2003 and 2005.
    Smoll said that depending on how much money came from sponsorships each year, the owners could collectively expect to pay anywhere from $30,000 to $130,000 out of pocket to keep the team running. But the league effectively died with a whimper, and without any official notice to Legend ownership, after the 2007 season.
    At that point, the group began talks with USBL team owners in Salina and Enid, Okla., plus potential team owners in Wichita about starting a professional basketball league in the Midwest. The Legends owners funded a search to recruit ownership in other markets, but the search  yielded no results, Smoll said.
    Dodge City Basketball Inc. has not held a formal meeting since then.
    But Smoll pointed to the upcoming completion of the special events center as another opportunity for Dodge to field a basketball team.
    And Goff, another member of the corporation, said he believed that all of the founding members would likely get on board if another opportunity to bring semi-pro sports back to Dodge City presented itself.   
    "Every single person in that ownership group was 100 percent committed and supportive, and I think regardless of what the sport will be, that the group will be interested," he said.

Reach Matt Martinez at (620) 408-9913 or e-mail him at matt.martinez@dodgeglobe.com