Dallas' WNBA team may be tipping off as early as 2002

Saturday, August 26th 2000, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

The WNBA is coming to Dallas, league president Val Ackerman says. Possibly as soon as 2002.

Mavericks president Terdema Ussery has pleaded his case for a Dallas WNBA franchise and is waiting to hear the league's expansion plans. No teams will be added in 2001, but Ackerman said Dallas and San Antonio are candidates the next time the league expands.

"For both markets, it's not a matter of if but when," Ackerman said. "We will have WNBA teams in San Antonio and Dallas some day. Both would be exceptional markets."

Both cities had a chance to test the waters this week with appearances by the U.S. Women's National Team. The Olympic squad played Canada at the Alamodome on Tuesday, drawing 8,015 fans. The two teams moved to Reunion Arena on Wednesday and played before a crowd of 8,789.

Among those attending the game at Reunion Arena was Duncanville resident Chad Beach, who coaches a summer team of sixth-grade girls. Beach, who escorted his team to the game, has taken his players to Houston three times this summer to watch the Comets. However, he welcomes the chance to stay closer to home.

Beach said he would take his players to more games should Dallas be awarded a women's team. He and his players enjoy the family atmosphere the WNBA tries to provide.

After expanding in each of the last two years, the league is holding off on adding teams for now.

Ackerman said the league would examine the possibility of expansion on a year-by-year basis. The soonest the league would expand is 2002, although Ackerman would not say whether that will happen. The latest a decision could be announced on 2002, would be the spring of 2001.

In the meantime, Ackerman said the WNBA would encourage organizations such as the Mavericks to continue preparing for a team. The Mavericks are doing just that.

"It would take us getting the new arena open first," Mavericks owner Mark Cuban said. "I want to make sure it's up and running before I undertake as important a task as a WNBA team."

Dallas is so confident in its chances of getting a team that American Airlines Center, scheduled to open by fall 2001, will include men's and women's locker rooms.

Ussery said the additional locker rooms would be needed if the Mavericks were in the playoffs when the WNBA season begins. That planned success by the NBA team is another key to getting a women's team.

"People need to know we're committed to having a great organization," Ussery said. "They need to know we can win and put a great product on the court."

"The WNBA wants all major markets which can support a team," Cuban said. "And we can."

When choosing a city, Ackerman said the league looks at several things from arenas to support for women's basketball at the college and high school levels as well as summer league participation.

Detroit Shock coach Nancy Lieberman-Cline sees the potential in Dallas, where she has seen the growth in women's basketball first-hand.

A resident of Dallas, Lieberman-Cline returns each summer for her basketball camps. Each year, more girls are coming out to those camps.

"Women's basketball is big in this state," Lieberman-Cline said. "And I think it would be incredible to have a team in Dallas. It is such a great sports town."