A split is brewing in the WNBA, and the source of the split is investment.
Certain ownership groups have thrown down the gauntlet with unprecedented funding, as evidenced by their state-of-the-art facilities and player amenities, forcing other teams to face a new reality. That reality is that they need to rise to meet the new standard being set or be prepared to face a competitive setback.
The Sky, catching up with teams like the Aces, Storm and Liberty, noted that they are following the times with their decision to start scouting locations for their own facilities.
“It’s an evolution that teams and the league go through,” Sky principal owner Michael Alter said. “Now is the right time. If we can find the right location and opportunity, we will.”
The team is already on its way to finding the right opportunity.
Sky coach/general manager James Wade spent time this offseason touring NBA facilities with VP of basketball operations/strength and conditioning coach Ann Crosby. The duo also spoke with team executives to hear what are the essential amenities to include in such a project. They had visits with the Bulls, 76ers, Celtics, Trail Blazers, Suns and Pacers.
Wade also toured potential locations in Chicago, but declined to specify which neighborhoods.
“We pride ourselves on being not just the Sky but the Chicago Sky,” Wade said. “We want to continue to be a big part of the community engagement and a team that represents this city at the highest level.”
Alter said the team’s second highest priority behind meeting player needs is developing a facility that benefits the community from an engagement and economic growth standpoint.
One aspect that players in the franchise have expressed dissatisfaction with in the past is the setup of practice.
The Sky currently practices at Sachs Recreation Center, a public gym in Deerfield, but plays at Wintrust Arena in the South Loop neighborhood. League professionals strongly believe that improving facilities would have a positive impact on free agency.
Sky CEO/Chairman Adam Fox said they have a list and are continuing to identify potential locations in Chicago that would give the team some proximity to Wintrust.
“It’s more advanced than just sitting around and thinking about it,” Fox said. “But not far enough where we’re about to put a shovel in the ground.”
Fox did not rule out the possibility of the team renting space in the city.
“We are open to any agreement that allows us to meet the goals and objectives of having the facility in the first place,” Fox said.
Along with the needs of the team and community involvement, Sky wants a space to host events, house staff, and hold meetings.
According to Sachs, the Sky signed a new lease this winter through the 2024 season. While Alter and Fox declined to give a timetable for completion of the project, it probably wouldn’t be before 2025. When asked if the funding for the project would come from the Sky ownership group or from outside investors, Alter said that is unknown at this time. this point.
The Sky did not recognize the competitive advantage the teams have gained through the investment as a motivating factor in its decision to take this step forward. But it is irrefutable that teams without their own facilities will fight a losing battle in the coming years.
“For what we have here right now in terms of our people, culture and equipment, [our own facility] it’s separation,” Kahleah Copper said. “We have to keep up with the Joneses. As WNBA players, it’s important to take care of ourselves. We have become so relaxed in settling for whatever we have, but we must demand and want more. This organization is so big that a facility just for us is a game changer.”