Candace Parker signing was ‘shot of energy’ for Sky as business side pushes forward amid pandemic

The WNBA star’s homecoming has led to increased fan interest.

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Candace Parker

Candace Parker #3 of the Los Angeles Sparks dribbles during the first half of Game One of their Second Round playoff against the Connecticut Sun at Feld Entertainment Center on September 17, 2020 in Palmetto, Florida.

Julio Aguilar/Getty Images

Candace Parker signed with the Sky this month with the determination to win Chicago its first sports title since the Cubs were crowned World Series champions in 2016.

But the acquisition of Parker, a former Naperville Central star who has been the face of the WNBA for more than a decade, has implications far beyond the basketball court.

Sky president and CEO Adam Fox said Parker’s signing was a “tremendous shot of energy” throughout the entire organization.

“She’s a cultural icon . . . She’s super recognizable. And it’s taken our franchise I think to another level of interest, in some ways overall accountability, as we’re looking to continue to grow our fan base.”

The Sky already are reaping the benefits of Parker’s homecoming. Fox said the organization has seen an overwhelming spike in interest in buying season-ticket packages, with dozens of new fans already snagging their passes for the upcoming season. Questions about corporate sponsorship opportunities has also increased, according to Fox.

“There’s a lot of interest with the success that our team was having prior to injuries and now adding a multiple MVP player to our roster, especially someone here from Chicago, it’s taken that interest up significantly,” Fox said. “We’re cranking out pitches and proposals at a much higher frequency right now.”

This is all a positive sign for the future of the franchise as it starts to rebound from the devastating financial effects of the pandemic.

The Sky lost 40% of their overall revenue in 2020 as fans weren’t allowed at games last season. Some of the team’s sponsorship deals also had to be reworked because of limitations caused by the WNBA’s season-in-a-bubble.

Despite the hardships brought on by the pandemic, the WNBA overall made a lot of positive strides in 2020, including a whopping 68% increase in average regular-season viewership across all networks.

There are still a lot of uncertainties regarding the upcoming season.

“It’s still unclear . . . what the season is going to look like,” Sky owner Michael Alter said. “How many home games are we going to have, how many fans will we be allowed to be at those games and all that . . . we don’t know how that’s all gonna play out yet.”

And though the Sky haven’t broken even financially since the organization was founded in 2005, Alter said it’s realistic to think the franchise could turn a profit within five years, especially with the help of Parker’s stature.

“After this year, we’ll be back to normal, and I do think we’ll be back bigger and better than we were pre-COVID because we’ll finally get to take advantage of all the momentum that’s been growing,” Alter said.

Parker is excited to have a part in growing the new wave of WNBA fans, especially in Chicago.

“The WNBA is 25 years young and with that comes growing pains and people forget that the NBA was on tape delay in the early ’90s and ’80s,” Parker said. “Nobody today would be able to believe that. But at the same time, it’s about constant growth, it’s about pushing forward, and I think it’s taking steps, and we’re doing that as a whole on the web and now with the Chicago Sky, always been pushing forward. It’s always been fun to come back and play in Chicago, and I think Chicago was ready and has always embraced women’s basketball.”

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