Sky scouting locations in Chicago for new team facility

The Sky have practiced out of Sachs Recreation Center, a public gym in Deerfield, since 2011.

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The Chicago Sky’s gym at Sachs Recreation Center was refinished to add the team’s logo ahead of the 2022 season.

The Chicago Sky’s gym at Sachs Recreation Center was refinished to add the team’s logo ahead of the 2022 season.

Annie Costabile/Sun-Times

There’s a divide brewing in the WNBA and the source of separation is investment.

Certain ownership groups have thrown down the gauntlet with unprecedented funding, evidenced by their state-of-the-art facilities and player amenities, forcing other teams to reckon with a new reality. That reality being they either need to rise to meet the new standard being set or be prepared to face a competitive setback.

The Sky, playing catch-up to teams such as the Aces, Storm and Liberty, signaled they are following the times with their decision to begin scouting locations for their own facility.

“It’s an evolution that teams go through, and the league goes through,” Sky principal owner Michael Alter said. “Now is the right time. If we can find the right location and opportunity, we’re going to do it.”

The team is already on its way to finding the right opportunity.

Sky coach/GM James Wade spent time this offseason visiting NBA facilities with vice president of basketball operations/strength and conditioning coach Ann Crosby. The duo also talked with team executives to hear what are essential amenities to include in such a project. They had visits with the Bulls, 76ers, Celtics, Trail Blazers, Suns and Pacers.

Wade has also visited potential locations in Chicago but declined to be specific regarding which neighborhoods.

“We pride ourselves on being not just the Sky but the Chicago Sky,” Wade said. “We want to continue to be a big part of community engagement and a team that represents this city at the highest order.”

Alter said the team’s second-highest priority behind meeting players’ needs is developing a facility that benefits the community from an engagement and economic growth standpoint.

One aspect franchise players have expressed displeasure over in the past is the practice setup.

The Sky currently practice at Sachs Recreation Center, a public gym in Deerfield but play games at Wintrust Arena in the South Loop neighborhood. There’s a strong belief from league professionals that upgrading the facility would positively impact free agency.

Sky CEO/President Adam Fox said they have a list and are continuing to identify potential locations in Chicago that would give the team some proximity to Wintrust.

“It’s further along than just sitting around thinking about it,” Fox said. “But not far enough along where we’re about to put a shovel in the ground.”

Fox didn’t rule out the possibility of the team renting a space in the city.

“We’re open to any arrangement that would allow us to meet the goals and objectives of having the facility in the first place,” Fox said.

Along with team needs and community involvement, the Sky want a space to host events, house staff and conduct meetings.

According to Sachs, the Sky signed a new lease this winter through the 2024 season. While Alter and Fox declined to give a timeline for the completion of the project, it likely wouldn’t be before 2025. When asked whether funding for the project would come from within the Sky ownership group or outside investors, Alter said that is unknown at this point.

The Sky didn’t acknowledge the competitive advantage teams have gained through investment as a motivating factor in their decision to take this step forward. But it’s irrefutable that teams without their own facility will be fighting a losing battle in the upcoming years.

“For what we have here right now as far as our staff, culture and team, [our own facility] is the separation,” Kahleah Copper said. “We have to keep up with the Joneses. As WNBA players, it’s important for us to be taken care of. We’ve gotten so relaxed in just settling for whatever it is we have, but we should demand and want more. This organization is so great that a facility just for us is a game changer.”

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