SBD/Issue 51/Franchises

Maloofs Terminate WNBA Monarchs Operations In Sacramento

Maloofs Terminate Monarchs Operations To
Focus More On Struggling NBA Kings
The WNBA Monarchs "ceased operations in Sacramento" on Friday, though league President Donna Orender is "pressing to keep the club intact," according to a front-page piece by Ailene Voisin of the SACRAMENTO BEE. Orender said that "discussions are ongoing with a potential ownership group in the Bay Area." Monarchs and NBA Kings co-Owner Joe Maloof said that the family's "decision to abandon their decadelong ties to the WNBA was prompted by a renewed emphasis on the struggling Kings." Maloof: "We're really bummed about this. ... But all of our efforts have to be on getting the Kings back to where they once were, and that takes our full commitment." It is unclear how many employees "would lose their jobs" as a result of the team's shuttering. The fate of the Monarchs "likely will be determined within a few weeks," and if "sale talks fail, the players will be dispersed among the league's 12 remaining franchises." Orender would not disclose what Bay Area facilities were under consideration, but sources said that Oracle Arena is "receiving the most attention." HP Pavilion officials indicated that they "were interested in the franchise, but had yet to talk to WNBA officials." Voisin noted in the "larger context, the Monarchs departure furthers ongoing concerns about the stability and long-term viability of the 14-year-old league." The three-time champion Detroit Shock moved to Tulsa earlier this fall (SACRAMENTO BEE, 11/21).

BAY WINDOW: In Seattle, Jayda Evans noted the WNBA said that "investors from the Bay Area are looking to purchase the team," though a source "could not confirm if it's the same investors the league has been in discussions with for about four years." The Warriors, who play at Oracle Arena, "have expressed passing interest, but have since nixed any idea of owning a WNBA team" (SEATTLETIMES.com, 11/20). FANHOUSE.com's Michelle Smith noted Oakland City Council member Rebecca Kaplan has been "pursuing an ownership group for a WNBA team for months," and said that she has "been in active talks with potential owners in Oakland and has met with Orender." Oakland Coliseum Authority Chair Scott Hagerty, whose organization oversees Oracle Arena, said that a WNBA franchise "would be welcome in the area, but it is important to 'approach things cautiously' because of the arena's existing relationship with the Warriors, its main tenant" (FANHOUSE.com, 11/21). Kaplan Friday said the WNBA is "very serious" about potentially moving the team to Oracle (MERCURYNEWS.com, 11/20).

SURPRISE, SURPRISE? ESPN.com's Mechelle Voepel noted the WNBA's interest in the Bay Area has "been long brewing," and the "idea of the Monarchs being shifted southwest has been floated by WNBA observers in years past." But the Maloofs' "commitment previously seemed firm," and their decision to "abandon the Monarchs was kept hidden until the last second, so that even team members and employees were surprised." However, Voepel wrote "perhaps it's really not that big a shock." The Kings have "faced come financial worries, coupled with the Maloofs' disenchantment with 21-year-old Arco Arena." The Maloof's divestment in the WNBA "continues a trend of NBA owners leaving the women's league." Among the other 12 active WNBA franchises, there are "seven independent owners and five NBA owners" (ESPN.com, 11/20). Monarchs coach & GM John Whisenant said, "I am shocked. Joe and Gavin called me (Thursday) night and told me. I was kept in the dark like everyone else. ... This was really a surprise to me" (SEATTLETIMES.com, 11/20). At presstime, 31% of 715 respondents to an online poll said they will miss the Monarchs. Thirty-six percent said they "can take or leave" the Monarchs, while the remaining 32% said "good riddance" (SACBEE.com, 11/23).

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