Doc Thorne doesn’t just want you to watch basketball. He wants you to have an experience.
Thorne, who owns the Cary Invasion semi-pro basketball team, has focused on concession sales, a mascot and half-time entertainment to lure fans to the Herb Young Community Center for games.
“Our fans are what make us,” Thorne said.
And what’s a basketball game without a dance team to pep things up a bit?
That’s where Ariana Goldstein comes in.
Goldstein, 24, was recently named leader of the Invasion’s dance team. Now she’s trying to recruit fellow dancers to cheer on the team and get fans on their feet.
The dancers don’t get paid, but Goldstein said it’s not about the money.
“It’s more about loving dance, loving performing,” Goldstein said. “It’s a good opportunity to some girls.”
This isn’t the first time the team has had a dance team. About six women – college students – performed at games during the first season in 2010, Thorne said.
The following two years, he said, a group of kids performed at the games.
This past season, Thorne worked to put an adult dance team back together; about half a dozen women performed, including Goldstein.
Make no mistake, Thorne said – these women have a lot going for them, and he has no patience for negative stereotypes of cheerleaders and dancers.
The Invasion dancers are “all smart as a whip,” Thorne said. “We’ve got to break this misperception about it right now.”
Goldstein earned a bachelor’s degree in psychology from UNC-Wilmington in 2012. Now she works as a medical assistant in Cary and hopes to attend medical school.
She graduated in 2008 from Middle Creek High School in Apex, where she helped form a dance team. She had moved to the area from Maryland, where she says dance teams are more common in schools.
She didn’t want to stop dancing after high school, so Goldstein joined the squad for the Wilmington Sea Dawgs, also a semi-pro basketball team.
“I knew I wanted to get on a dance team,” she said.
As a kid, Goldstein said, she dreamed of coaching a squad. Now she has her chance. She’s hoping plenty of dance lovers will audition for the team Aug. 2 at the Cary Arts Center.
“This is their chance to get back on the dance floor and work their stuff,” she said.
After all, Goldstein said, the Cary Invasion is about more than basketball.
That’s what Thorne has been preaching all along. And it seems to be working.
Last year, he said, an average of about 50 people attended games.
This past season, some games drew 350 fans, he said.
Players get paid based on ticket sales. The more fans show up, the more players get paid.
But mostly, Thorne is trying to create an experience in downtown Cary. The new season starts in November.
“It’s catching on slowly,” he said.