Hard Work Needed To Bring WNBA To Tulsa

Wednesday, July 22nd 2009, 4:57 pm
By: News On 6

By Jeffrey Smith, The News On 6

TULSA, OK -- Tulsa would be only the third WNBA team to play without sharing the city with an NBA team.

The News On 6 spoke with WNBA executives from several markets and they say Tulsa's in store for a lot of opportunity, but also a lot of hard work.

Before Tulsa experiences its first professional tip-off, take a word of advice from Bill Bolen. He's the president of the WNBA's newest team, the Atlanta Dream.

The franchise is in its second year.

"I think the biggest challenge for us, that certainly, if Tulsa was to start playing in the summer of 2010, will be a big challenge for Tulsa, is just the timing," said Bill Bolen, Atlanta Dream President.

If Tulsa's investment group comes through with the money by September, that leaves only eight months before the 2010 season.

"The time it takes to build your staff, to build a ticket holder fan base, to find corporate sponsors, it was very compressed, and that's probably the biggest challenge that any new franchise faces," said Bolen.

The Connecticut Sun also had eight months and their general manager says it's tough to generate buzz, but he says Oklahoma is in a great position.

"You have an educated fan base there. Paris has played there and she has brought so much exposure to the schools in that state. Women's basketball is becoming a bigger and bigger pull for fans," said Chris Sienko, Connecticut Sun General Manager.

The Sun was the first independently owned franchise, meaning there was no NBA parent club to draw resources from.

Sienko says that was a huge obstacle and one that Tulsa would also face. He has some advice for how to overcome it.

"People come because they want to see the best players in any given sport. You sell the players, you sell the affordability of it, the family focus of the WNBA and I think those are all primary drivers," said Sienko.

The WNBA has 13 teams. The average attendance is 7,900 fans per game. They play a 34 game regular season starting in mid-May. There would be about 17 home games at the BOK Center, if Tulsa secures a franchise.