We’re all-in to bring WNBA All-Star Game to Chicago

Chicago is expected to host this summer’s WNBA All-Star Game at Wintrust Arena. The event will draw tourists and help boost the profile of women’s sports.

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Chicago Sky center Candace Parker (3) moves the ball during the first half of Game 2 of basketball’s WNBA Finals against the Phoenix Mercury, Wednesday, Oct. 13, 2021, in Phoenix. Candace Parker staved off Father Time and helped the Chicago Sky win the franchise’s first WNBA championship and for the second time in her career was honored as The Associated Press’ Female Athlete of the Year.

Chicago Sky center Candace Parker (3) moves the ball during the first half of Game 2 of basketball’s WNBA Finals against the Phoenix Mercury on Oct. 13, 2021, in Phoenix. Candace Parker staved off Father Time and helped the Chicago Sky win the franchise’s first WNBA championship and for the second time in her career was honored as The Associated Press’ Female Athlete of the Year.

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What a historic honor it will be for Chicago to host its first WNBA All-Star Game.

Although the league hasn’t formally announced it yet, multiple sources told the Chicago Sun-Times’ Annie Costabile the July 10 match will be held at the Wintrust Arena.

Sounds like a slam dunk for the city.

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The extravaganza and accompanying shindigs will certainly draw basketball fans and tourists from all over the country. Throwing the festivities here will undoubtedly give Chicago — still on a Sky high after the team won its first WNBA championship in October — an extra jolt of energy and a high-profile opportunity to showcase the city and women’s sports on the national stage.

Sky forwards Kahleah Copper and Candace Parker along with point guard Courtney Vandersloot played in last year’s All-Star game in Las Vegas. If they or other teammates are selected for this year’s game on their home turf, it will be a ball.

Showcasing and uplifting athletes isn’t a novel concept in this sports-crazy town. Chicago hosted the NBA All-Star game in 2020. The NFL draft was last here in 2016.

But widespread support of women athletes and mainstream media coverage of women’s college and professional sports has only begun gaining traction in the last few years.

Meanwhile, female athletes’ salaries can still be best described as ridiculously paltry compared with the millions thrown at their male counterparts. And the fans following the women’s teams, while steadily growing, are still usually outnumbered by the crowds pouring into stadiums to watch men’s sports.

You’d be hard-pressed to find a Chicagoan, even one who doesn’t follow sports, who doesn’t know the Bulls, Cubs, White Sox, Bears, Blackhawks and Fire. But you might still get a blank stare if you ask them about the Red Stars women’s soccer team or which Chicago team gave the city its only championship title in 2021 (the Sky).

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The success and rising popularity of the WBNA are a hopeful sign of change for women’s sports.

Since it was founded in 1996, the WNBA expanded from eight teams to 16 and teetered between 14 teams and 13 before dropping to 12 in 2010.

When the Sky defeated the Phoenix Mercury in last year’s finals, the four games averaged 548,000 viewers on ESPN networks and ABC, ESPN reported. That was a 23% increase from 2020 and a 42% increase from the year before.

Overall, the 2021 WNBA regular season averaged 306,000 viewers, a 49% increase over the 2020 season.

The All-Star Game is a great opportunity to turn up hype for the Sky and the WNBA.

Chicago, the ball will be in our court.

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