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Why the WNBA Should Come to Philly

On Tuesday morning, Diana Taurasi, the highest scorer in WNBA history recorded her 8,000th career point against the New York Liberty. That would have gone down as another great moment in Madison Square Garden history, except that it did not happen at MSG. It was not even accomplished in New York City, but in suburban Westchester County Center.

The NY Liberty have moved this season’s games from Madison Square Garden to the Westchester venue with a seating capacity of 5,000, a quarter of the Garden’s seating. Double G Sports has reported on this recently here:

The WNBA has struggled somewhat coming up with the right venue for the league teams. Drawing more modest numbers of fans than the NBA, games often lose some of their ambiance in the cavernous arenas. Blocking off the upper levels helps concentrate the crowd, and 9,500 fans grouped tightly around any venue can create a lot of atmosphere.

Many teams have moved into smaller venues and on the East Coast it is mixed. The Connecticut Sun play in a 10,000 seat facility, while the Washington Mystics play in Capital One Arena, just like the Wizards. The fact is that a franchise in Philadelphia would actually be playing in the city of Philadelphia, and in the preferred size arena.

The WNBA needs a franchise in a city like Philadelphia. Basketball at it’s roots is a city game, and Philadelphia is the sixth largest city in the nation. The WNBA currently has franchises in five of the ten US cities with populations over one million.

There is a long standing basketball culture and tradition in the city. Philadelphia gave us Wilt Chamberlain, Paul Arizen, Earl Monroe and Kobe Bryant (more or less). Philadelphia is where Dawn Staley played her college ball at Temple. The same Dawn Staley who is the Head Coach of Women’s USA Basketball.

Philadelphia is the city with arguably the best group of young players in the NBA. And the Sixers have a realistic chance to add LeBron James and/or Paul Pierce in the off season. Philadelphia has the Sonny Hill League, a great community program and is the launching pad for countless elite players. And Philadelphia claims Villanova University as it’s own, celebrating their National Championships with parades.

Philadelphia was home to the most iconic city league ever, the Big Five (‘ Nova, Temple, Penn, St. Joe’s, and LaSalle). The City of Brotherly Love and Sisterly Affection pours a lot of its emotion into basketball. That is basketball culture.

So the market is huge, it is a basketball town, but what about the venue?

A WNBA franchise in Philadelphia could certainly consider the Wells Fargo Center. The Sixers home building is a world class facility, but again, would be hard to fill on a regular basis. Fortunately, Philadelphia has several other possible landing sites for a WNBA team.

Some of the college basketball teams mentioned previously have perfect sized facilities for WNBA play. St. Joe’s Hagan Arena seats 4,200, a bit small, but doable. The Palestra at the University of Pennsylvania seats over 8,700 and Temple’s Liscourad Center has a capacity of 10,200. They are all located within the city, and again, at it’s core basketball is above all others, a city game. There is different vibe in going to game in the city, that is hard to replicate in a suburb. Philadelphia is a popular tourist destination, so the amenities are already in place, and they are quite adept st accomodating pro sports teams, events  and the influx of fans..

The fact that a franchise in Philadelphia would actually be playing in the city of Philadelphia, with the existing basketball culture in place, and in the league preferred size arena, gives the WNBA all it needs to know to get the city up on their radar.

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