Lively Tales About Dead Teams

Archive for the ‘Grand Rapids MI’ tag

1961-1974 Grand Rapids Tackers

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1973 Grand Rapids Tackers Program

Midwest Professional Basketball League (1961-1964)
North American Basketball League (1964-1968)
Continental Basketball Association (1969-1970)

Born: 1961
Folded: 1974?


Team Colors:

Owners: Albert S. Maine?

CBA Champions: 1973 & 1974


The Grand Rapids Tackers were a locally popular club that played in various semi-pro basketball leagues in the Midwest between 1961 and 1974.

Former University of Toledo star Steve Mix played for the Tackers during the winter of 1972-73 after his pro career initially sputtered with the NBA’s Detroit Pistons and ABA’s Denver Rockets.  After averaging 31.1 points per game with the Tackers in 1972-73, Mix revived his career and went on to play another 10 seasons in the NBA, mostly with the Philadelphia 76ers.

Little information about the Tackers has survived into the internet age. I believe the team owner during the 1970’s was a fellow named Albert S. Maine. We would also like to know if the team played in other gyms besides the Godwin Fieldhouse. If you can share memories or info on this club, please leave it in the comments of this post.


1989-2003 Grand Rapids Hoops / Grand Rapids Mackers

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Grand Hoops Media GuideContinental Basketball Association (1989-2001)
International Basketball League (2001)
Continental Basketball Association (2001-2003)

Born: 1989
Died: 2003


Team Colors:

  • 1989-1990: Purple, Green, Orange & Black
  • 1994-1996: Maroon & Gold


CBA Championships: None


The Grand Rapids Hoops were a durable minor league basketball operation that played 14 seasons in various buildings in and around the Western Michigan city.  The team was known as the Grand Rapids Mackers for a brief interlude (1994-1996) after ownership briefly passed into the hands of Scott and Mitch McNeal, founders of the Gus Macker 3-on-3 basketball tournament empire.  When the McNeals unloaded the team in 1996, new owner Bob Prsybysz quickly restored the “Hoops” identity.

The Hoops/Mackers played their first seven seasons in Welsh Auditorium, one of the smallest buildings in the Continental Basketball Association with seating for fewer than 4,000.  After moving into the brand new Van Andel Arena in 1996, the Hoops established themselves as one of the top draws in the CBA during the late 1990’s.  Neverthless, the team still lost considerable money each year, despite consistently ranking at or near the top of the CBA attendance leaderboard.

The Hoops’ fortune soured further in 1999 when former Detroit Pistons superstar Isiah Thomas worked a deal to purchase the Continental Basketball Association and its member franchises for $10 million. Despite Thomas’ lofty talk of massive expansion and new business development, the future Hall-of-Famer destroyed the 55-year old league in a matter of months.

Thomas rebuffed an offer from the National Basketball Association to purchased the CBA at a profit, believing he could extract a better deal. The CBA had longed served as the Official Developmental League of the NBA.  But Thomas had badly misread the situation and the NBA severed its developmental deal with the CBA and moved ahead with development of the National Basketball Development League.

Thomas soon grew bored with his failing investment and accepted an NBA head coaching job with the Indiana Pacers.  Thomas was forced to give up his CBA ownership  due to conflict of interest rules and placed the CBA into a blind trust on the eve of the 2000-01 season.  The move choked off crucial funding to the league-owned franchises. By February 2001, the league was broke. The league folded in mid-season on February 8, 2001.  Local investors purchased the Hoops back from the CBA for a token consideration and immediately entered the Hoops into the International Basketball League to finish out the 2000-01 winter season.  The IBL folded after the season as well, marking twice in sixth months that the Hoops league had now collapsed around the team.

A group of former CBA team owners who had sold out to Thomas in 1999 re-claimed their old teams following the implosion of the league in early 2001.  The group re-booted a new version of the CBA to launch in the winter of 2001-02.  The Hoops re-joined the CBA from the defunct IBL.  At this time, the team also moved out of the modern-but-expensive Van Andel Arena and out to the cheaper DeltaPlax in suburban Walker, Michigan. New owners Joel and Bruce Langlois also owned the DeltaPlex itself.

The re-booted CBA was a flop, having lost much of its identity and legitimacy with the loss of its NBA partnership.  The Hoops lasted two more seasons in the CBA before folding in 2003.  The CBA itself closed its doors for good in 2009.

During their 14-year history the Hoops never won a pro championship.  The team did make two Finals appearances, losing the CBA crown to the Omaha Racers in 1993 and to the Yakima Sun Kings in 2003.




==In Memoriam==

Former Hoops coach Bruce Stewart (’91-’94) died of cancer of May 23, 2011 at age 57.



Continental Basketball Associations Media Guides

Continental Basketball Associations Programs




1998-2008 Grand Rapids Rampage

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Arena Football League (1998-2008)

Born: 1997 – The Massachusetts Marauders relocate to Grand Rapids, MI
Folded: March 5, 2010

Arena: Van Andel Arena (10,819)

Team Colors: Red, Black & Silver

Owner: Dan DeVos

Arena Bowl Champions: 2001


A small market mainstay in the Arena Football League for over a decade.  The Grand Rapids Rampage lineage dates back to the Detroit Drive (1988-1993), who were a dynasty in the AFL’s early years.  The Drive moved to Worcester, Massachusetts in 1994 and played one season as the Massachusetts Marauders before going bankrupt.  Dan DeVos bought the carcass of the Marauders out of bankruptcy in 1997 and brought the team to Grand Rapids.

Dan DeVos was an heir to the Amway fortune and he also owned the Grand Rapids Griffins, the city’s minor league hockey team.  Van Andel Arena, where both the Rampage and the Griffins played, was named for Jay Van Andel, who was the business partner of Dan’s father Rich DeVos in founding Amway.  Dan DeVos gave some insights into the team’s finances in interviews with The Grand Rapids Press in 2008,. He acknowledged that the team lost money in all of its seasons in Grand Rapids, but said he kept it going because he felt the Rampage was important to the fabric of the community.

Sometimes referred to as “the Green Bay Packers of the Arena Football League”, the Grand Rapids Rampage were an anomaly in a league that increasingly focused on major markets from the late 1990’s onward.  DeVos would have been justified in moving the Rampage into Arena Football 2. The AFL’s small-market developmental league launched in 2000 and featured similar mid/small market cities to Grand Rapids.  To his credit, he kept the Rampage in the primary league and was rewarded with a championship in Arena Bowl XV in 2001.

Arena Bowl XV was the franchise’s finest hour.  The Rampage hosted the Nashville Kats at a sold-out Van Andel Arena with 11,217 in attendance.  ABC Sports televised the game nationwide with a first-rate broadcast team of Brent Musburger, Gary Danielson and Lynn Swann.  Rampage quarterback Clint Dolezel connected with Offensive Specialist (and game MVP) Terrill Shaw for five touchdowns passes and the Rampage defeated the Kats 64-42.  It would be the Rampage’s only championship in their eleven seasons of play.

Following the 2008 season, the Arena Football League fell into a business model crisis, despite rising franchise valuations and increasing attendance.  The league’s expenses still far outstripped revenues and with unionized labor, the player salary cap had risen to approximately $2 million per season. It was a sea change from the late 80’s and early 90’s when players earned just $500/game for a 12-game season.  A planned $100 million recapitalization of the league via a sale to private equity firm Platinum Equity fell through in the fall of 2008.

In December 2008 the AFL cancelled its 2009 season.  The Rampage entered a state of limbo for all of 2009 as the remaining AFL owners tried and failed to craft a new business model.  The league eventually entered bankruptcy in August of 2009.  A collection of former AFL and small market Arena Football 2 owners bought the league’s intellectual property out of bankruptcy in late 2009. They announced a new, low-budget version of the league to begin play in the spring of 2010. Rampage ownership decided not to participate in the new league. The team officially went out of business in March 2010, after 15 months of inactivity.


Grand Rapids Rampage Memorabilia


Rampage Video

Corporate Sponsorship video presentation, prepared for the abandoned 2009 season:


Local news coverage of the Arena Football League shutdown in December 2008:



Arena Football League Media Guides

Arena Football League Programs


Written by AC

August 22nd, 2013 at 4:44 pm


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