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Tuesday, June 25, 2024

WNBA’s Boom Time: Record Growth, Clark’s Debut, a Controversial Deal

  • League attendance is up by nearly a third, while the Liberty set a single-game ticketing record.
  • Plenty of cheap Fever tickets are available as the team has dropped its first three games.
The Indianapolis Star

The 2024 WNBA season has already been seen for some time as an economic watershed for the league, and not just because of the Caitlin Clark (above, left) effect. The early days of the new campaign have helped confirm that notion, but not entirely in positive ways. 

Since the May 14 start of the season, the WNBA has seen:

  • A new single-game ticket revenue record as the New York Liberty generated more than $2 million from their Saturday win over the Indiana Fever at Barclays Center, according to the Associated Press 
  • An average attendance of 8,730, a figure up by nearly one-third from the league’s full-season average in 2023 of 6,615
  • An ESPN viewership record for the WNBA with an average draw of 2.1 million for the Fever–Connecticut Sun game on May 15 

The league’s ongoing growth, however, still contains some elements of controversy. The WNBA is now investigating a sponsorship deal between the Aces and Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority in which each player will receive $100,000—a figure higher than the salaries of six players on the team. The basis of the probe, and underlying concern, is whether the Aces will receive an unfair advantage in free agency due to deals such as this. 

Aces star A’ja Wilson, however, said the investigation could set an improper tone and impair the broader mission for the WNBA.

“When we’re talking about growing the game. We’re talking about taking that next step; it can’t always be ‘investigate, investigate, investigate,’” Wilson said. “It has to be like, ‘We’re trying to move the needle. We’re trying to make things better for franchises, for players, for teams.’”

Overmatched in Indy?

On the court, the start of the Clark era with the Fever has often been ugly, with the team losing its first three games by an average of 23 points and the former Iowa star struggling at numerous points as she adjusts to the higher level of competition. 

As that process continues, the secondary market for the Fever continues to show some marked pockets of softness. Tickets to several upcoming Indiana games can easily be purchased for $5 or less, and in some cases just $1, a situation also fueled by extra seating inventory that the team opened up the entire upper deck of Gainbridge Fieldhouse for home contests. If the Fever continue to be dominated by the rest of the league, the previously white-hot ticket market to see Clark will likely see further softening. 

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