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Nuevo Laredo Toros to play half of season in Laredo

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Below is the full Q&A I had Tuesday with LEA General Manager Xavier Villalon about the Nuevo Laredo Toros agreeing to play 11 games at the LEA this fall. The full story can be found in Wednesday’s edition of the Laredo Morning Times.

Q: Where are we exactly in the process of bringing the Toros to the LEA?

A: We basically just signed a formal letter of intent to proceed further into contract negotiation. We’re looking at the time frames and shooting for a start date sometime in September. We’re looking at having 11 games here in the arena.

From what has been presented to us I think the town will be pretty surprised by the quality and obviously this is a championship team so its good to see some real basketball here at the arena.

Q: How’s it feel to be bringing this level of professional basketball to the arena?

A: Anytime we do something new its exciting. Obviously, we’ll be setting up something (new and) we want to put our best foot forward and make the community respond to it the way we hope and anticipate they would. Going into this is something that’s exciting. Knowing you have an established team that’s already won a championship only makes it better. We’re hoping the community comes out and supports it.

Q: How long has this been in the works?

A: We’ve had discussions off and on for a while but I’d imagine the last couple of weeks really wrapped it up. Before, it was a moving target. We didn’t know… Obviously the floor discussion was something that was occurring, and that’s a totally separate thing, and when this discussion started occurring with the basketball team it just started steamrolling itself these last couple weeks into something more concrete and obviously we’re already at that point where we can start moving to the final negotiations of the contract and get that out of the way and work on a successful season.

Q: You say you’re shooting for a September start date, do you have an official first game date in mind yet for the first game?

A: We have tentative stuff written down, but obviously what we’re working on right now is getting the turnaround on the floor. We’re still in the process of that. Once we get that squared away, we’ll have a firm date of when that’s coming in we can start planning it out.

I would say in the near future. a lot of that depends on the manufacture of the floor. They understand the position we’re in and obviously it’s a good position for them. They have a good hard sell in front of them to move fast on. We should be expecting a good firm date on that soon. When? I’m expecting something locally within two weeks. Hopefully by the end of this week I can come back with some dates. All that’s kind of being revealed day by day.

Q: Are you ready to share pricing information for tickets and concessions yet?

A: The thing we’ve worked together on is any tenants here are price conscious. We’re on the same page from the very beginning, aggressive pricing and decent priced tickets for the quality of basketball.

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Hockey likely to return to Laredo

The Laredo Energy Arena has gone into salesman mode, looking for a new tenant since the folding of the Laredo Bucks a month ago.

A new basketball court the city plans to purchase this summer raised eyebrows in May, but arena general manager Xavier Villalon said the search for a new tenant is going in a different, more familiar direction.

“I fully believe we’ll have another tenant in the future with hockey,” Villalon said.

What shape and form a new hockey team might take, Villalon wouldn’t say, but he pointed to the Bucks’ 10-year tenure and league-leading attendance records as reason enough to explore returning to the rink.

“There are discussions and interests into the arena,” he said. “The market did support quite heavily a hockey team in previous years.

“Obviously, some of the most current years weren’t the best, but there was a big statement made here in regards to hockey, so we have that in our favor.”

Read more on this story, including the possibility of the Nuevo Laredo Toros (basketball) playing in the LEA, in Wednesday’s edition of the Laredo Morning Times.

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Laredo hopes to bring basketball to LEA

The City of Laredo and the Laredo Energy Arena are pursuing the installation of a basketball court this summer and expect to be hosting games on the hardwood this fall and winter.

“I think it’s very good (odds we purchase a basketball court),” said LEA general manager Xavier Villalon.  “We’ve been given the direction to start looking at getting the court, getting the bids out there and analyzing the storage required for that.

“It’s pending a couple issues to get answered, but for the most part, I think we’ve been given pretty much kind of a ‘move forward and see what it takes to make it happen’ (directive).”

The court will be used to host high school games, NBA preseason contests and, possibly, Laredo’s own professional basketball team.

Logistics

Villalon said initial estimates suggest a court will cost the city between $170,000 and $200,000.

The highest current priority, however, is finding storage space for the court.

City Budget Manager Martin Aleman said he was walking potential storage facilities two weeks ago.

“These portable courts require special storage areas (to protect them from) humidity and heat so they don’t warp,” Aleman said. “We need to make sure they’re properly kept. We have to make sure we have a proper space to store it before we order it.”

A large amount of research remains to be gathered before a final decision is made on whether to bring basketball to the LEA, but progress is being made at a rapid pace.

“Hopefully, within the next 60-90 days, it can be done,” Aleman said.

Read the rest of this story in Wednesday’s edition of the Laredo Morning Times.

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Bucks on the brink

The relative calm of the Laredo Bucks’ offseason is about to be spoiled by turbulent waters.

The Bucks’ ticket office stopped selling tickets for the 2012-13 hockey season last week.

According to a member of the ticket office, there is a “possibility of no season” next year.

“From what I’m hearing, they want to make a decision and make sure, when they move forward on next season, there actually is going to be a next season,” said Laredo Energy Arena general manager Xavier Villalon. “We’re anticipating some official announcement soon.”

The representative of the ticket office said if the team decides to return for another season, tickets will be back on sale Wednesday or Thursday.

Whatever the outcome, an announcement is expected to be made this week, possibly as soon as today.

Internal decision

Rumors have indicated the Bucks might be forced out of the arena by the City of Laredo and SMG, a company that manages the arena.

But Villalon, who manages the arena on SMG’s behalf, said that isn’t the case.

“We’ve worked with them to create a sustainable business model to give them longevity here,” he said. “From what I understand, we were going down the right path, (but) something that happens internally amongst them — if they decide to switch gears and do something else — we’ll have to conform to that and really think about what we’ll put here and what will work.

“I think the Bucks will comment on what kind of season they had in reference to a fan base, but, you know, we’d like to see them come back and have a successful, sustainable year.”

Speculation that a new lease will force the Bucks is also off-base, said Villalon.

The Bucks’ current lease is a relatively new document, just rewritten last year.

If the Bucks leave, Villalon said it won’t be because a new contract squeezed them out.

“When I came in last year, we negotiated a contract with them and we really sat down together to make as sustainable (as possible) for them,” Villalon said. “That is out of the way. This is more of an internal business decision on the Bucks.”

Several calls to members of the Bucks’ organization weren’t returned as of late Monday.

On April 24, Glenn Hart, Bucks former majority owner-turned-minority owner, said it was “not true” that the team might not be back for next season. However, what wasn’t true last week might be true by the end of this week.

The rest of this story can be found in Tuesday’s edition of the Laredo Morning Times.

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Showtime Boxing hits Laredo with ‘Rumble on the Rio’

Laredo’s next major boxing event was announced Wednesday at an afternoon press conference.

Xavier Villalon, general manager of the Laredo Energy Arena, said the bout, titled “Rumble on the Rio”, is just the kind of entertainment he’s been wanting to bring to Laredo since arriving in town half a year ago.

“We wanted to bring in a really big event, a boxing event,” Villalon said. “A big reason we wanted to bring in an event like this is to promote Laredo.”

The bout, scheduled for April 8, will feature a triple main event with talent from around the world.

The headliner is a ten-round super middleweight fight between Dyah Davis (18-2-1, 9 KO’s) and undefeated Marcus Johnson (20-0-0, 15 KO’s).

An eight-round junior welterweight bout between Gabriel Bracero (14-0, 1 KO) and Danny O’Connor (14-0, 3 KO’s) and an eight-round welterweight bout between Willie Nelson (16-0, 10 KO’s) and Vincent Arroyo (10-1, 7 KO’s) round out the top of the ticket.

Additional talent is expected to be brought in as well.

“Local, state and national talent will be added to this lineup,” Villalon said.

‘Gold mine’

Boxing promoter Kerry Daigle, CEO of Keeppunching Entertainment, said he was excited about the future potential for Laredo as a boxing city.

“Hispanics are the biggest boxing fans in the world,” Daigle said. “We’re sitting on a gold mine that can be a fresh face for boxing here in Laredo.

“This is the crème of the crop coming into Laredo.”

The bouts will be broadcast internationally on Showtime and are expected to draw a massive television audience.

“Showtime hasn’t done a major event in two years and it’s coming to Laredo,” Daigle said.

Hardly expected to be the end of the road for boxing in Laredo, organizers hope that a strong showing in April can attract bigger and better things in the future.

“Our goal is to bring in a big, big bout down the road,” Villalon said.

Good for Laredo

Members of the city government were on hand in support of the announcement.

“This is a great opportunity for all Laredo boxing fans,” said assistant city manager Jesus Olivares. “We look forward to some great matches, and encourage everyone to come out and enjoy a night of great fighting.”

Blasita Lopez, director of the Laredo Convention and Visitors Bureau, said the event should be beneficial for the economic health of Laredo.

“This event is good news for us in the tourism promotion arena because the wider the repertoire of our entertainment venue, the more we have to market and the better chances of attracting more people,” Lopez said.

Tickets for the bout go on sale at 10 a.m. today.

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