End of an Era for Lightning Basketball?

By: Brad Broders
By: Brad Broders

The time clock winds down Sunday at the Metro Center, ending a ball game, a regular season and more than likely, an era for the Rockford Lightning.

"We've had season ticket holders that were with us 20 years. This was their life. They looked forward to Lightning basketball, and for that to be over, is very tough," General Manager Michael Neville said.

"I don't know if it's just a cyclical thing that it goes up and down. I think it's just sad," Dennis Osterloo said.

In January, the Lightning's ownership group announced the team would fold at the end of the year unless a new group emerges and takes over. General Manager Michael Neville is in talks with a potential ownership team, but at this point, he's less than optimistic.

"If I had to guess today, I would say no, but it's not dead yet. As I said, there's a group of businessman who are working to purchase the franchise, and if that comes then you'll have basketball in Rockford for a 21st season," Neville said.

Should the cash and attendance struggling Lightning cease to exist, so would the employment of seven local full-time staffers, along with coaches and players.

"It's never easy when you hear you're going to lose your job, and for something like this, because most of my staff is from Rockford," Neville said.

However, most longtime fans spent Sunday's game focusing less on the Lightning's murky future and more on its glorious history.

"I remember the first game I ever came to, Norm Van Leer was the coach I remember like the first 30 seconds that first year, screaming at the officials, it was just a different deal right then," Osterloo said.

Lightning team leaders wouldn't say what deadline the team has to find a new ownership group and avoid the team folding. The Lightning have 24 regular season home dates. However, most of those were on weekdays, as the city's hockey team, the Icehogs, locked up most of the Metro Center’s coveted weekend dates.


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