SBD/June 20, 2013/Franchises

WNBA Sky Owner Hopeful Team's Fortunes On Upturn; Delle Donne Generating Interest

Attendance for the Sky is up 15% since Delle Donne joined the team
WNBA Sky Owner Michael Alter has "rarely experienced failure" in his business and philanthropic endeavors, but owning the team has "given him a taste of it," according to Keith Griffith of The franchise, which he founded in '05, "is the only WNBA team that’s never made the playoffs." Although attendance has "inched upward each year, last year’s average crowd of 5,500 ranked third-to-last in the WNBA." He said, "It’s been a lot harder than I thought it was going to be. I feel determined to make it successful, but I haven’t yet in the major measures -- we haven’t been successful on the court, and we haven’t been profitable yet." Part of the Sky's trouble "emanates from its struggles on the court -- the team has yet to finish a season above .500." Alter before this season can "only recall one local sports columnist attending a Sky game in seven years." Alter "hadn’t heard of the league until 2004, when he attended the NBA’s All-Star Game" in L.A. as a guest of NBA Deputy Commissioner & COO Adam Silver. Alter "sees the Sky as a business, but also as a way to engage the community." He said, "I want to demonstrate that you can take something that has civic importance and make a successful business out of it." Alter has "made significant strides toward achieving that goal this season." Attendance through the first five games is "up 15 percent and sponsorship revenue is up 20 percent." At the "center of the uptick" is interest in Sky F Elena Delle Donne. Team President & CEO Adam Fox believes that growth will "beget more growth." He said, "This is something that’s going to get built over time." Alter's team expenses compared to those of his NBA counterparts "aren't eye-popping." WNBA payroll is "capped at $900,000," and his non-basketball staff is "lean, at around 20." Alter: "I feel really good about where we're at" (, 6/20).

ONE OF A KIND: USA TODAY's Scott Gleeson wrote Mercury C Brittney Griner's "formula of openness gives the league, in many ways still seeking an identity with the American public, a star who's highly unpredictable yet uniquely marketable." Mercury Owner Robert Sarver said, "I think you're seeing more guys who are basketball fans purchasing tickets and watching WNBA games because of Brittney." Former WNBA President Val Ackerman said, "She's certainly a once-in-a-generation type of player, and she has the opportunity to elevate the visibility of the WNBA in a completely new way" (, 6/17).
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Chicago Sky, Franchises, WNBA

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