SBJ/20100510/This Week's News

Season-tix renewal rate has league optimistic

The WNBA opens its 14th season this week with a new market in Tulsa and a high season-ticket renewal rate that it hopes will lead to an increase in average attendance.

The 12-team league starts regular-season play Saturday  with a national broadcast on ESPN2 between the 2009 champion Phoenix Mercury and the Los Angeles Sparks, one of up to 35 games ESPN will air this year.

The Tulsa Shock joins the league after being relocated from Detroit, while new local ownership takes over the Atlanta Dream franchise. The WNBA this offseason lost one of its original franchises when the Sacramento Monarchs folded.

The league has a 75 percent season-ticket renewal rate this year, up slightly from last year, while team sponsorship revenue has increased by double digits, according to WNBA President Donna Orender.

“We have had three consecutive years of attendance gains and I anticipate another increase this year because season-ticket sales are trending up,” Orender said, adding that she expects a few WNBA teams to be profitable this year. None of the teams were in the black last season.

The WNBA’s average attendance in 2009 increased 1.1 percent to 8,039 fans a game, the third consecutive season of increased attendance. The Washington Mystics led the WNBA in average attendance with 11,338 fans, while the Chicago Sky was last in average attendance with 3,933 fans.

This season, for the first time, the league will stream all of its games in high definition through WNBA.com. In addition, at least 50 more regular-season games will be aired in local markets, boosting the total number of local broadcasts to 110.

League partner Kia will expand its activation by becoming the presenting sponsor of both the WNBA regular-season and postseason player awards.

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