IS LOUISVILLE READY FOR A WNBA FRANCHISE AND WOULD FANS SUPPORT IT?
We know how crazy Louisville WBB fans are for the beloved squad that drew almost 8,000 per home game in the 2021-22 season. We also have no doubt that this attendance figure will continue to grow in future years. Let's face it, the Cards WBB squad has a palace to play in at the KFC YUM! Center and the quality of the product is pretty darn good.
Could a WNBA franchise do as well "down by the river" ? Let's look at a few things, since the WNBA has expressed interest in expanding the league "by a couple of teams" by the end of the year and hoping the additions could be ready to play by 2024.
--Two major architects of the Louisville Cardinals WBB squad -- Jeff Walz and Angel McCoughtry think it would work in Louisville. Walz will tell you that the support Louisvillians (and others) have shown to all the women's sports programs in the city and on the UofL campus indicate a pro franchise would do well in Louisville. Angel McCoughtry is eager for it to happen as well and is ready to go talk to whoever she needs to and get Louisville's name submitted on the short list. (and, when Angel talks, it's a wise decision to listen...)
-- No need to worry about conflicts with college WBB, The WNBA plays from early May to early August (traditionally) and a team plays around 36 games. Figure around half of those at home, and it doesn't seem like too much of a burden on a women's basketball fan.
-- Cost per ticket? Using the Indiana Fever as a price guide, tickets per game can run anywhere from $26 to $500 -- location being the determining factor. I'd expect season ticket packages would be available and specially "themed" nights could provide some special, lower pricing.
-- Who will step up and own the franchise? That's a pretty important factor, you know. An individual businessman? A group of investors? A well-heeled local corporation? In a lot of cases, the same individual owns the corresponding men's NBA franchise in the city. IN fact, 11 of the 12 WNBA "cities" have a NBA franchise in them, Las Vegas being the exception.
-- Will the fans show up? In the WNBA, Seattle reigns "queen of attendance" with over 10,000 per home game in 2022. Looking at 2021 numbers, the Phoenix Mercury led the way with almost 6,000 per game. At the lower rung of the ladder, you have Atlanta and L.A., barely hovering around 1300 and no attendance figures were available for Indiana. Would Louisville fans show up to put (let's say) 5,000 a night to watch a WNBA team? I think more than that would attend, but others I have talked to think that would be a good median number. Attendance is up in the WNBA, a growth indicator.
-- WHAT'S IN A NAME? Out of the 12 franchises in the WNBA, there are a variety of nickname categories. You have atmospheric conditions (Sky, Sun and Storm). a planet or temperature indicator (Mercury), playing card category (Aces), animal (Lynx), animal parts (Wings), sleeping status (Dream), medical condition (Fever), spiritual (Mystics), fire by-products (Sparks), and a state of freedom (Liberty). What would you call a franchise in Louisville? Something Derby, horse or bourbon related? A reference to the Ohio River? I like a back-handed tribute to Ali here, with the Louisville Legends. What you got?
Over the years, the WNBA has tried (and failed) in some pretty big cities, like Houston, Detroit, Charlotte, Sacramento, Miami, Portland and Cleveland. But, the WNBA is now enjoying (arguably) it's best success in term of viewers and attendance that it ever has. Where else would the WNBA look to expand? In South Carolina? (where the Gamecocks draw big, big crowds). Knoxville? (where UT pulls them in for college WBB), somewhere in Iowa? (where Iowa and Iowa State draw big WBB crowds).
Time, I guess, will tell. I'd support it here, definitely write about it (especially if Louisville gals were on the team) and think it could work.
Let's do this, WNBA. Stand up, some local, rich businessman or corporation, and tell the league YOU want to be the sponsor. Maybe, just maybe, someone already has...
WNBA commissioner Cathy Englebert says the league has trimmed it's "potential" city list down to 10-12 cities and they will run each city through 25 data points encompassing five categories: demographics, psychographics, fan data, viewership and sports benchmarks. The league hasn't expanded since 2008 (when the Atlanta Dream were established).
One good thing -- the NCAA has no say in it. Louisville would be eliminated immediately if they were.
I hope to be able to write about and cover from a media standpoint a WNBA local franchise someday. I'd probably start a new site for it, since CARDINAL COUPLE covers UofL women's sports. I hope my wish comes true.