Sky owner Michael Alter was happy that his team will start playing next season at a new arena near downtown Chicago.
The WNBA team has played the past eight years at Allstate Arena in the northern suburb of Rosemont.
On Tuesday, the Metropolitan Pier and Exposition Authority voted to approve an agreement to have the Sky play at Wintrust Arena in the South Loop neighborhood, not far from Soldier Field. DePaul will play its men’s basketball games at the new arena as well as some of its women’s games too.
“We took a look at the business and really felt being in the city would be a big boost in terms of attendance and ticket sales and on the sponsorship side,” Alter said in a phone interview with The Associated Press.
“We love being in Rosemont, but there is a vibrancy in the city of Chicago. Combine that with a fantastic arena that is the perfect arena for us that seats 10,000 people. It’s also got all the bells and whistles of an NBA arena. It’s state of the art with layout, hospitality, technology, production. All things you’d love to have. This will be exciting.”
The five-year agreement includes the Sky playing all 17 home games at Wintrust Arena along with promotional events. The Sky will receive revenue from tickets, sponsorship sales and merchandise. The authority will receive rent, concessions, parking and ticketing fees.
“It was a tough decision for us,” Alter said. “We have a fantastic relationship with Rosemont and the Allstate arena. They have been great partners with us. Great to work with. Our business has done well and grown there.”
Alter said that the MPEA approached him a few years ago, but talks didn’t really get serious until the past few months. He also said it’s too early to tell if the Sky will practice down in Chicago or stay up where they are now in Deerfield.
“That’s still being reviewed. We will practice some down there, do events there and clinics,” he said. “It’s not going to be our full-time practice facility. It’s still evolving and not something that will be decided in the next six months. We’ll look to see if there’s a practice facility in the city that makes sense for us.”
It’s not the first time that the Sky have been in the city. They played their first few years at the University of Illinois-Chicago.
The players just learned about the move.
“I just found out yesterday,” said Sky All-Star Allie Quigley. “It’s great to be closer to Chicago and hopefully we’ll get more city people at the games. Any new arena is going to be amazing and to be part of that is a really good opportunity.”
Sharing the arena with DePaul also was an added bonus for Quigley, who starred at that school.
“It will nice to see DePaul around the arena,” she said.
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