ONTARIO >> The first step for the Clippers’ new G-League team, the Agua Caliente Clippers of Ontario, was to introduce themselves to the community with its Tip-off Party on Monday.
Mayor Paul S. Leon and the community welcomed team president Heath Bennett and the organization with open arms.
“On behalf of the City Council, we are excited to welcome the Clippers to their new home at Citizens Business Bank Arena,” Leon said. “Today is a good day for all of us and we are thrilled to also welcome Clippers fans throughout Southern California to the city of Ontario.”
Bennett has only been in the Inland community for three weeks but wasted little time embracing the area and its other sports teams by attending Rancho Cucamonga Quakes games.
While he is still getting familiar with the area, he is not a stranger to the Clippers organization.
He spent four years with the team before leaving in 2012 to become the general manager of the Angels’ double-A affiliate, the Mobile (Alabama) BayBears. He also spent time as a director of sales for the NHL’s Florida Panthers.
“The turnout tonight has been outstanding. We really didn’t know what to expect,” Bennett said. “The community came out in full force for the event.”
Among the fans in attendance was Jules Ferrer, who considered himself a die-hard Clippers fan.
“I am from Eastvale, which is about 15 minutes from here,” Ferrer said. “To be able to watch basketball near by is a dream for me.”
Ferrer said he has been a fan for over 20 years and went to about 15 Clippers games last season at the Staples Center in Los Angeles.
“I had a lot of family that are fans of the Lakers but I wanted to go against the grain and be a Clipper fan,” he said. “If I can I might be a season ticket holder but I do plan to come out to as many games as I can (in Ontario).”
As team president, Bennett’s expectation for the team going forward is to have more than just an impact on the court but in the community as well.
“My goals and expectations are pretty much aligned. We are going to have some fun with this,” he explained.“This is NBA branded basketball but when it comes to the pricing and affordability families will be able to come out here on a Friday night and not have to break the bank.”
With a roster of player yet to be determined, the goal for the Clippers was to give the community an example of what a game night could look and feel like.
“Without having players in the building tonight…