SBD/Issue 28/Franchises

Tulsa's New WNBA Club Will Take The Floor With New Nickname

Bill Cameron, Donna Orender, David Box On
Hand To Introduce WNBA To Tulsa
WNBA Tulsa co-Owners Bill Cameron and David Box yesterday formally announced that the Detroit Shock will relocate to Tulsa prior to next season, and the club will have a "new name and could have a new color scheme," according to Lynn Jacobsen of TULSA WORLD. The owners did not say when the team would announce a name or colors, but Box noted that fans "could have input in those decisions." Box: "This is Tulsa's team, we want Tulsa's impact." WNBA President Donna Orender, Oklahoma Gov. Brad Henry and Tulsa Mayor Kathy Taylor also attended yesterday's press conference introducing the state's second major-league sports franchise, which will play in the WNBA's "second-smallest market, behind the Connecticut Sun." Cameron and Box "didn't reveal the cost of the team," but acknowledged that they spent months "working to secure investors, ticket sales and corporate sponsors." The club has sold $1M "through combined season ticket, sponsorship and suites sales." The WNBA last season averaged 8,040 fans per game, but Box said the team can "draw closer to 10,000" at BOK Center. Capacity for home games will be set at about 8,600 and "most of the arena's upper level will be curtained off." But Cameron/Box Sports VP Eric Newendorp said that "if the demand for tickets warrants, the capacity will be expanded into the upper level" (TULSA WORLD, 10/21).

CUT DAY: Palace Sports & Entertainment President & CEO Tom Wilson yesterday acknowledged that the "tough economy played a major role in selling" the Shock. Wilson said the team lost "somewhere near" $2M for the '09 season. He added, "In tough times you have to make tough decisions. The attendance this year was the toughest ever, and we had to make the call. ... We had owners stick by year after year through millions of dollars in losses, but they felt obligated and believed in the product. It was just time." Late Pistons and Shock Owner Bill Davidson passed away in March, and Wilson said, "I don't know if it would have made a difference if Mr. Davidson was still alive. We're in uncharted water with the economy the way it is right now. We had a board of owners meeting and it was unanimous" (DETROIT NEWS, 10/21). Wilson in a letter posted on the Shock Web site said, "The current state of the economy has presented us with incredible challenges. We, like many of you, have had to make some very difficult decisions -- ones we hoped we never had to make -- and sadly, this move to Tulsa is one of those decisions" (THE DAILY).

SECOND TIME'S THE CHARM? In Detroit, Terry Foster writes the Shock have a "better chance of surviving in the smaller market where there's less competition and more people receptive to women's athletics." When you "try to place women's athletics in major cities up against the NFL, MLB, NBA and NHL, it eventually dies" (DETROIT NEWS, 10/21). In Tulsa, Jimmie Tramel writes the WNBA "will thrive in Tulsa." Team GM & coach Nolan Richardson "has street cred here," and people who "might have zero interest in the WNBA will go to games because of the Nolan factor." Also, has "any pro sports franchise in Tulsa ever emphasized this demographic -- young girls -- for ticket sales?" No matter "what the event is, people will go to the BOK Center just because the arena is that cool." Tramel: "Give Tulsans a major league team to call their own and history says they'll get on the bandwagon. ... If Tulsans want the WNBA to be a hit, then it will be a hit" (TULSA WORLD, 10/21). ESPN.com's Mechelle Voepel noted as the WNBA "transitions away from the disappointment of Detroit to a new hope in Tulsa, it's in the same boat it has been: It's not going to sink, but it's also not close to smooth sailing." The league "isn't going to deliver huge TV ratings, but it strives to be a viable programming option." But this move to Tulsa is "about more than just that city or even the state of Oklahoma." It will be the "first WNBA franchise in the middle of Big 12 territory, and that league has led the nation in college women's hoops attendance for the past 10 seasons in a row" (ESPN.com, 10/20).

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