Local woman takes a shot at her dream

No one ever said running a professional basketball team in Richmond would be easy.

But a 53-year-old local law firm employee is giving it her best shot.

Joyce Patterson is the new owner of the Richmond Elite, which is two months into its inaugural season in the resurrected American Basketball Association.

It was at an NBA playoff game in Orlando a few years back that Patterson, a paralegal and office manager at Carytown law firm Godwin-Jones & Price, first thought about owning a basketball team.

She says she thought, “Why can’t I have this?”

Patterson is no stranger to the hard court. She played point guard at Varina High School, and her two sons both played high school ball.

“Basketball is in my genes,” she said.

She took the leap and bought into the ABA in November.

“It’s just been work, work, work to this point,” Patterson said. “Starting this up from the bottom floor has been a challenge.”

Patterson’s venture isn’t Richmond’s first go-around with the ABA.

In the 1970s, when the original league was in its heyday, the Virginia Squires played many of their games in Richmond. That team helped produce future NBA Hall of Famers Julius Erving and George Gervin. A Richmond ABA team called the Ballerz also played in the late 2000’s before folding.

The ABA eventually merged some of its teams into the NBA and the league went dormant until about 2000. A new ABA was launched in 2000, but fizzled out again about 2005.

That’s when Joe Newman got a hold of the league and crafted a business model that has sustained it thus far.

That model helps fledgling owners like Patterson get a foot in the door.

The league’s previous management was charging teams $75,000 to $100,000 for franchise fees.

Newman says he cut that down to a one-time $10,000 fee that the league will also help finance for new owners.

“You don’t have to reach deep into your capital in order to own an ABA team,” Newman said. “I didn’t want to put the teams in a large hole starting out.”

If a team does it right, Newman said, they can operate for $75,000 to $100,000 and make $150,000 to $400,000 in profit a year.

The league, now headquartered in Indianapolis, has 70 teams across the country. Newman’s partner in the league is Dick Tinkham, one of the original founders of the original ABA.

Each team keeps all its revenue and sets its own prices for tickets and player salaries.

The league makes money from national sponsors and merchandise.

The league is profitable, Newman said.

“It’s not the NBA or Major League Baseball, but it’s doing fine.”

Of course, a few teams struggle.

“There is turnover,” Newman said. “Is it bigger than other industries? I don’t know.”

Team owners include business people, former ball players, pastors, attorneys and a former college basketball player’s grandmother, Newman said.

“We created a business plan that makes the operation of a team not only affordable, but revenue driven, rather than capital driven,” Newman said.

“Then we’ll hope owners execute that plan. And that’s probably the most difficult part. Some do it beautifully and are successful. Some don’t.”

Patterson has been a good owner, Newman said, “but it is their first year so they need to understand how important it is to establish relationships. They have a lot of work to do.”

Most of the players are picked from local talent: those who played in area colleges but didn’t get drafted or picked up by pro teams overseas.

“Virginia has excellent colleges and excellent players, so it’s not difficult to put together a good team,” Newman said.

Games are played on the weekends and are within a few hours drive of the team’s home base. And there’s a reason for that.

“Most players live at home and have jobs. We can’t have a league and have road trips where they miss work,” Newman said.

The Richmond Elite’s roster includes Brandon Rozzell, who played on VCU’s Final Four team last season.

On the court, the Richmond Elite are off to a good start.

The team is 11-4 and is ranked in the ABA’s top 24. Games run from November through March.

Patterson hired George Lancaster from Highland Springs to run the team.

Its first home game, at Highland Springs High School in November, drew between 600 and 700 people. Attendance averages between 300 and 400, Patterson said.

Patterson would not share player salaries, revenue figures or profit projections.

“I just know that it has been a challenge,” she said. “Any business starting off is a challenge.”

The team makes money from ticket and merchandise sales and fundraising events. It is working on landing corporate sponsorships and possibly looking at a deal to get some of the games broadcast on local cable TV, Patterson said.

“We do a little bit of everything to bring in money,” Patterson said. “We’re here to stay.”

No one ever said running a professional basketball team in Richmond would be easy.

But a 53-year-old local law firm employee is giving it her best shot.

Joyce Patterson is the new owner of the Richmond Elite, which is two months into its inaugural season in the resurrected American Basketball Association.

It was at an NBA playoff game in Orlando a few years back that Patterson, a paralegal and office manager at Carytown law firm Godwin-Jones & Price, first thought about owning a basketball team.

She says she thought, “Why can’t I have this?”

Patterson is no stranger to the hard court. She played point guard at Varina High School, and her two sons both played high school ball.

“Basketball is in my genes,” she said.

She took the leap and bought into the ABA in November.

“It’s just been work, work, work to this point,” Patterson said. “Starting this up from the bottom floor has been a challenge.”

Patterson’s venture isn’t Richmond’s first go-around with the ABA.

In the 1970s, when the original league was in its heyday, the Virginia Squires played many of their games in Richmond. That team helped produce future NBA Hall of Famers Julius Erving and George Gervin. A Richmond ABA team called the Ballerz also played in the late 2000’s before folding.

The ABA eventually merged some of its teams into the NBA and the league went dormant until about 2000. A new ABA was launched in 2000, but fizzled out again about 2005.

That’s when Joe Newman got a hold of the league and crafted a business model that has sustained it thus far.

That model helps fledgling owners like Patterson get a foot in the door.

The league’s previous management was charging teams $75,000 to $100,000 for franchise fees.

Newman says he cut that down to a one-time $10,000 fee that the league will also help finance for new owners.

“You don’t have to reach deep into your capital in order to own an ABA team,” Newman said. “I didn’t want to put the teams in a large hole starting out.”

If a team does it right, Newman said, they can operate for $75,000 to $100,000 and make $150,000 to $400,000 in profit a year.

The league, now headquartered in Indianapolis, has 70 teams across the country. Newman’s partner in the league is Dick Tinkham, one of the original founders of the original ABA.

Each team keeps all its revenue and sets its own prices for tickets and player salaries.

The league makes money from national sponsors and merchandise.

The league is profitable, Newman said.

“It’s not the NBA or Major League Baseball, but it’s doing fine.”

Of course, a few teams struggle.

“There is turnover,” Newman said. “Is it bigger than other industries? I don’t know.”

Team owners include business people, former ball players, pastors, attorneys and a former college basketball player’s grandmother, Newman said.

“We created a business plan that makes the operation of a team not only affordable, but revenue driven, rather than capital driven,” Newman said.

“Then we’ll hope owners execute that plan. And that’s probably the most difficult part. Some do it beautifully and are successful. Some don’t.”

Patterson has been a good owner, Newman said, “but it is their first year so they need to understand how important it is to establish relationships. They have a lot of work to do.”

Most of the players are picked from local talent: those who played in area colleges but didn’t get drafted or picked up by pro teams overseas.

“Virginia has excellent colleges and excellent players, so it’s not difficult to put together a good team,” Newman said.

Games are played on the weekends and are within a few hours drive of the team’s home base. And there’s a reason for that.

“Most players live at home and have jobs. We can’t have a league and have road trips where they miss work,” Newman said.

The Richmond Elite’s roster includes Brandon Rozzell, who played on VCU’s Final Four team last season.

On the court, the Richmond Elite are off to a good start.

The team is 11-4 and is ranked in the ABA’s top 24. Games run from November through March.

Patterson hired George Lancaster from Highland Springs to run the team.

Its first home game, at Highland Springs High School in November, drew between 600 and 700 people. Attendance averages between 300 and 400, Patterson said.

Patterson would not share player salaries, revenue figures or profit projections.

“I just know that it has been a challenge,” she said. “Any business starting off is a challenge.”

The team makes money from ticket and merchandise sales and fundraising events. It is working on landing corporate sponsorships and possibly looking at a deal to get some of the games broadcast on local cable TV, Patterson said.

“We do a little bit of everything to bring in money,” Patterson said. “We’re here to stay.”

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Jason Castro
Jason Castro
10 years ago

Oh, my, Michael, have you been taken for a ride. Joe Newman’s claim of big profits is ridiculous. You should do more research on this league and see how many teams have folded and how few have survived. Joe Newman is a snake-oil salesman. There is simply no way to make $400,000 in profit with an ABA team or with any minor-league basketball team. That has NEVER been done. Ever. Ever ever ever.

Michael Wranovics
Michael Wranovics
10 years ago
Reply to  Jason Castro

Jason, that’s actually not true. There are minor league basketball teams that have made that kind of money. If minor league hockey can make money, which it does in many markets, then why couldn’t basketball? Especially if the team is in a basketball hotbed, plays in a nice venue, and is run by smart operators who know how to promote. I know the D-League has a few teams that are doing quite well right now. In the ABA (this version of it), no way. Every single ABA owner has lost money. Then, they fold, leave the ABA for a better… Read more »

Jason Castro
Jason Castro
10 years ago

Name one. Name one minor-league basketball team in history that you know has made $400,000 in profit for a season. Name one.

Michael Wranovics
Michael Wranovics
10 years ago
Reply to  Jason Castro

The Bakersfield Jam.

David Spillman
David Spillman
10 years ago

And you call yourself a reporter? Joe Newman has single handly burned minor league basketball in the USA. Have you no computer to check all this out? You just need to know one thing to understand him, he can sell snow to an eskimo, he has taken advantage of many African-Americans. Did you call one previous owner of an ABA team?

Michael Wranovics
Michael Wranovics
10 years ago
Reply to  David Spillman

I have to agree that this guy is exploiting people. Having the ABA name and the signature red, white, & blue ball (even though this league has no ties to the original ABA whatsoever) has given Mr. Newman unwarranted credibility. By setting the price low enough, he has no problem finding buyers even though they almost always fail within a year. Newman is like one of those guys in the parking lot who tries to sell you brand name speakers out of the back of a truck, telling you that he can sell them to you cheap because a few… Read more »

Jennifer Snead
Jennifer Snead
10 years ago

To this women thats trying to fulfill a dream, I admire you for your effort. There’s always haters in this world but don’t let them tear your dream apart. I would like to attend your games and support you in what you are doing. This is a much needed sport and I am glad that you have brought it back to Richmond. We do have a lot of talent here and I wish you the very best in your endevour!

Henry Booker
Henry Booker
10 years ago

Come on guys don’t hate. Whoever takes the challenge to bring a pro basketball team to Richmond should be commended. Regardless of how much profit is made or who is purchasing the team, go for it. Follow y our dream Ms. Patterson. I wish you great success!

Jason Castro
Jason Castro
10 years ago

We don’t hate the woman.

We hate the league. And its CEO. And how he preys on people with dreams.

Henry Booker
Henry Booker
10 years ago

Jason, I don’t know why your expericne with Joe Newman has been so bad but maybe it was just your experiience. We all have had a bad experience somewhere in life but just because it was bad for one dosen’t mean it has to be bad for others. Businesses open and close everyday but does that mean it was a bad business? NO! There could be many reasons why it didnt work so do we turn others away for trying or do we support something that could be the best thing that’s come BACK to RIchmond. We have a lot… Read more »

Mark Mcabke
Mark Mcabke
10 years ago

OH MY GOD!!!!! Go to this league is the LAUGHING stock of sports. There have been more than 200 franchises come through this league and ALL 200 HAVE FAILED and screwed players and sponsors. Your buying a “franchise” in this league? hahahahahahahahahahahahha

Go here for MORE laughs on the ABA and hear ALL the horror stories. You cannot be THAT STUPID.

http://www.oursportscentral.com/boards/showthread.php?t=19783

DaveM
DaveM
10 years ago

How many 3rd rate minor league franchises have come and gone in this town? Some people must enjoy losing their arse.

darrylc1
darrylc1
10 years ago

I think it is commendable that this lady is trying to do something good for the community, however history is not on her side. It is not a case of people “hating” the ABA or J.N, it’s a question in regards to how many teams have folded, how many teams lost big money. how many players get hosed, how many sponsors get burned and lastly how many people lose their life savings. I find it hard to believe that the fault for all these teams failings is because they did not follow the “ABA Keys to Success”. One would think… Read more »

Jeff Guiler
Jeff Guiler
10 years ago

Hey Henry, could you please share your research with the rest of us? I’ve followed this league since 2000 and I have not yet seen a successful team (even the snake oil salesman’s team failed in it’s 2nd season). This league is the best quickest way to turn a $10K investment into a $250K debt. Who are these national sponsors that Newman speaks of (Stadium Jerky and Pit Bull Energy drink?)? League is a complete sham and scam. Half the games end up being played against local pick-up players because most teams don’t have the money to travel, but are… Read more »

Henry Booker
Henry Booker
10 years ago

Hey guys Enough Already! You have turned this great article into a smash bash on ABA and the dream of this women. I don’t think the article was about ABA but a black women fulfilling her dream and allowing a basketball team to make a difference in Richmond. I like what Joe Newman said ” ABA gives hundreds of players and coaches and referees a chance to do what they love to do – play, coach and ref at the professional level – and it gives fans a chance to see great basketball at affordable prices. Our teams give so… Read more »