Entering the 2017 WNBA season, there are a few intriguing developments on the arena front. While no new venues are opening for the league this year, major renovation projects are forcing two teams —the Minnesota Lynx and the Atlanta Dream—to seek refuge in temporary venues as construction takes place.
In a broad sense, the two cases are very similar, as renovations at Minnesota’s Target Center and Atlanta’s Philips Arena are scheduled to take place over the summer to avoid conflicts with the NBA season. At the Target Center, construction crews are looking to wrap up the third and final phase of a renovation that is dramatically overhauling an arena that originally opened in 1990. Philips Arena, meanwhile, is just about to undergo a $192.5 million makeover that will be spread out over multiple phases.
Both teams will have to make adjustments in their new venues, which are notable in their contrasts. The Lynx are moving to the Xcel Energy Center—an established arena that is home to the NHL’s Minnesota Wild. The venue will provide the amenities of a modern arena, but will lead to a big geographical change as the team uproots its operations in Minneapolis and heads to St. Paul for a year.
Despite the move, however, the Wild appear optimistic about their fortunes at the venue. As we covered recently, the team is working to broaden its fan base in the St. Paul area, and could give a team that ranked fourth in WNBA attendance last year a chance to maintain—or even improve upon—those numbers.
The long-run goal for the Lynx will be to maintain their St. Paul fan base when they move back to the Target Center. The Lynx’s return to the Target Center will take place next year, but for the Dream, the stay at a temporary home will take a bit longer.
Starting this year, the Dream will use Georgia Tech’s McCamish Pavilion for home games. The situation is a bit different than that of the Lynx—unlike their counterparts in Minnesota, the Dream will have the advantage of remaining in their home city, as McCamish Pavilion is just a few miles up the road from Philips Arena, but are moving to a much smaller venue of roughly 8,600 seats.
Furthermore, the Dream will have to plan on playing at McCamish Pavilion for two seasons. The scope of the Philips Arena project requires that work take place over the summer to avoid conflicts with the Atlanta Hawks’ schedule, and the renovation timeline calls for construction to be completed for the 2018-19 season, which will mark the Hawks’ 50th anniversary in Atlanta.
The Dream has experience at McCamish Pavilion, having played playoff games at the arena last year.
Time will tell how the Dream fares at McCamish Pavilion, but with the Lynx also on the move, they will not be alone among teams playing at temporary venues this year. The Lynx will play their regular season home opener on May 14, while the Dream will follow on May 21.
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