Positive news surfaced Thursday in the Golden State Warriors confirming it is interested in operating a WNBA team. Los Angeles Sparks chairman Paula Madison announced Thursday her family-owned business could no longer operate the team, laying off the front office staff and coaches on New Year’s eve.
Madison told the Associated Press her family lost $12 million since taking over the franchise in 2007, including $1.4 million last season. The Sparks lost its major sponsorship deal with Farmer’s Insurance in 2012, which added to the financial problems for the team.
LA and Phoenix were the first to sign those “marquee” deals in 2009, replacing the team name to the sponsors’ name on the front of jerseys.
The Storm could lose its title sponsor, Bing, according to team co-owner Lisa Brummel, who’s a Microsoft executive. Seattle isn’t expected to suffer like LA, however.
“We are still in discussions with a lot of sponsorship people and that’s something we’re going to have to pursue,” Brummel said Friday. “While it’s beneficial, it’s not essential. If we were not to land a sponsor in the same way we have in the past, we have a plan to move forward.”
So, what will be etched across the team’s jersey this summer is as uncertain as whether All-Stars Sue Bird and Lauren Jackson will truly be in them. The franchise players are currently playing overseas after missing the 2013 season to undergo surgeries and rehabilitate the injuries.
Seattle signed the original three-year deal with Bing in 2010. It was believed to pay the team $1 million annually. Seven teams in the league had similar contracts. New York lost its Foxwoods Casino sponsor that originated in 2010.
There are reports that six teams saw a slight profit in 2013. Storm president and CEO Karen Bryant confirmed Seattle is one of those teams. The positive revenue occurred despite the Storm averaging a franchise-low 6,980 fans last season. It averaged 7,489 fans in 2012 – which ranked seventh in the WNBA.
Bryant and the Storm made a move to return to the days where strong ticket sales and sellouts were common. Kyle Waters was re-hired in November as vice president of ticket sales and service. Waters returns to the Storm after a previous seven-year stint from 2005-12. He spent the past year as general manager of ticket sales and service for Collegiate Consulting in the Purdue University athletics department.
During Waters’ brief tenure, Purdue’s football season ticket sales reached their highest mark since 2007, men’s basketball attendance ranked in the top 25 nationally and women’s basketball attendance ranked in the top 10 nationally and No. 1 in the Big Ten Conference.
Ticket sales during the WNBA’s regular-season improved by 8.9 percent in 2013.