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NEW YORK - Sometimes bigger isn't necessarily better, the WNBA is learning as far as arena sizes go.
There has been a move over the past few years to downsize venues that will save franchises money and provide a more intimate experience for the fans.
Next season, only four of the 12 teams will be playing in current NBA arenas - Los Angeles, Minnesota, Phoenix and Indiana. When the league first started 22 years ago all the franchises were in NBA venues.
"We started in NBA buildings because they were available, WNBA President Lisa Borders told the AP in an interview. "NBA owners, with the infrastructure they had, it was easy to drop a team in.
Now WNBA teams are scaling back where they play. It seems that the perfect-sized venue for the WNBA as far as economics and fan experience is roughly an 8,000-seat arena such as the Mohegan Sun where Connecticut plays.
"What I want to do is get the product in the right-sized buildings, Borders said.
Borders said the league has hired an innovation and brand design consulting firm to come up with a wide-ranging five-year strategic plan and that everything is on the table, including looking at venues and venue size.
"We want to get it right, she added.
The biggest move this offseason was in New York with the Liberty going from Madison Square Garden to the Westchester County Center. Washington is moving into a new building next year that will have a capacity of just 4,200.
The change of venue for New York saves millions of dollars in operating costs for the Liberty because the Garden costs nearly 20 times as much to play in. The Liberty will lose some revenue from sponsorships associated with playing at the Garden. The new arena is much smaller than the Garden, with maximum seating at nearly 4,500. The team configured the arena to seat 2,319 fans, a size that will be used for the immediate future.
While New York can't consistently fill up the smaller arena, drawing around 1,700 fans on average at Westchester this season, it's financially working out better. The Liberty are covering the cost of opening the arena with ticket revenue. Something that rarely happened at MSG.
The Liberty averaged 9,889 fans last season, the fourth highest of the league's 12 teams. New York said that number was a combination of paid tickets and complimentary ones and that the paid attendance was fewer than 5,000 fans.
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