Can a WNBA Move Entice Women’s Hoops Fans?
by Shannon Shelton
Although this is not a professional basketball website, news of the WNBA is
often received with interest by women’s college basketball fans and players,
since many see the health of the league as a general statement about
national interest in women’s hoops.
A very recent shakeup in the WNBA, therefore, can be seen as a sign that the
league is headed toward an untimely end or moving to a better situation that
would be more beneficial to women’s hoops fans across the nation.
On Monday, the operators of the Orlando franchise made an unexpected
announcement that they were dropping the Miracle team for the 2003 season.
While it has been under speculation that cities like Detroit, Utah and
Charlotte, which lost its NBA team to New Orleans, would give up their WNBA
teams, Orlando was seen as a safe site for the WNBA.
The Miracle will likely move to San Antonio, which is in the midst of the
approval process for a WNBA team and is close to reaching the required
6,000-season ticket order mark. San Antonio is geared to start play in 2003.
The Miracle move is just a reaction to a recent move by the NBA Board of
Governors. That might be the bigger story. Earlier the month, a Board of
Governors vote approved changes in the WNBA structure that hastened the
Orlando move. The NBA now jointly owns all of the WNBA squads, but plans to
move to individual ownership. The NBA also opened the door for non-NBA
owners to own a WNBA team or for WNBA teams to be located in cities where
NBA teams don’t exist.
Currently at 16 teams, the WNBA wants to put teams in new cities, but not
expand, citing a fear of diluting its talent pool. This likely means that
current NBA franchises might choose to abandon their WNBA teams, allowing
them to move to other cities.
There are two possible outcomes to this action. Some are worried this might
be the end of the league, as more NBA owners, like the Orlando Magic owners,
will decide they don’t want to take on the sole financial responsibility for
their city’s WNBA team and let it go.
For the sake of women college basketball players, one would hope this isn’t
the beginning of the end for the league, as the WNBA has given them a
professional opportunity in this country they can look forward to after
In an ideal situation, the move will open doors for the WNBA to improve its
product by putting teams in cities that really want them. One benefit could
be that areas that have been proven successes for women’s college basketball
can be converted into WNBA towns, even if they don’t have an NBA team.
Areas like Hartford, Conn., have been clamoring for a WNBA team since
previous women’s professional leagues have been successful there. The
University of Connecticut isn’t too far away in Storrs, and the Huskies’
success has made the state a women’s basketball hotbed.
The WNBA has expressed interest in Hartford, which used to average about
10,000 for its New England Blizzard team in the defunct American Basketball
League in 1997-98. A site in Tennessee could also take advantage of the
popularity of women’s basketball at the University of Tennessee and
The WNBA is positive about its new structure, saying it is no longer a
league in infancy and should stand on its own feet. One would hope that the
popularity of women’s basketball is strong enough in this country that the
league can survive without the financial backing of the NBA.