With its first playoff appearance in the bag and Elena Delle Donne newly crowned WNBA Rookie of the Year, the management of the Chicago Sky is optimistic that it will be profitable as early as next season.
“We’ve closed the gap. We’re very close,” says Adam Fox, the Sky’s team president and CEO. “We’re at that point where we’d like to be able to take that next step.”
Apparently, winning does more for the bottom line in women’s basketball than it does in men’s hockey. Blackhawks owner Rocky Wirtz told Grid in June that even after the team’s second Stanley Cup win in four years, the Hawks remains two to three years away from profitability.
When Keith Griffith profiled Sky owner Michael Alter for Grid in June, he learned that if the Sky were to consistently sell out the lower bowl — 7,000 tickets — it’d likely bring the team into the black. During their last season, when the team went 24-10, the Sky averaged more than 6,600 fans per game this past season, a 17 percent jump in ticket sales from 2012.
And the enthusiasm has already shown up in next season’s ledger. Fox reports that since the Sky bowed out of the first round of the playoffs with a 79-57 loss to the Indiana Fever on Sept. 22, they’ve already rebooked roughly 90 percent of the season ticket revenue they had this past season.
The team’s success comes after 7 years of losing basketball and losing money. In Griffith’s profile, Alter was unabashed about the brief and unremarkable history of his team. “We haven’t been successful on the court, and we haven’t been profitable yet,” the real estate mogul said. Before this season, Alter could recall just one local reporter making the trip up to Allstate Arena, and that was to interview a player on the opposing team.
Now, Fox says that Delle Donne and a playoff berth team has enjoyed its first taste of media exposure, which drove up attendance figures and created a more hospitable atmosphere in which to negotiate corporate sponsorships.
One area that didn’t help the team’s balance sheet? The extra revenue from the playoff run, which lasted just one home game. Between playoff bonuses, and traditional game-day expenses like rent and advertising, Fox says the team didn’t see much of a windfall. “This year, the playoffs for us were a push,” says Fox. “I hope next year we have more of a sample size to figure that out.”
ABOVE: Chicago Sky star Elena Delle Donne. Photo by Ross D. Franklin.