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Minnesota Lynx: Temporary Home, Permanent Success

Minnesota LynxWith renovations to Minneapolis’s Target Center set for this summer, the Minnesota Lynx (WNBA) faces the challenge of relocating games to St. Paul’s Xcel Energy Center — and, surprisingly, the team is seeing an uptick in business.

Usually when a sports franchise takes up temporary residence in this situation, there’s a drop-off when it comes to attendance and revenue. And, to boot, the Lynx are playing at the home of the Minnesota Wild (NHL), a natural competitor to the Lynx, the Minnesota Timberwolves (NBA) and Target Center in the marketplace. But the Lynx, whose 2016 playoff run yielded some huge crowds (including 19,423 at Game 5 of last season’s WNBA Finals), are parlaying the wins on the court to wins in attracting fans to St. Paul.

Why the success? The move prompted the Lynx marketing staff to change tactics and focus on fans on the eastern side of the Twin Cities. Traditionally the Lynx have not drawn well from that area — indeed, the commute from St. Paul to downtown Minneapolis can be a bit of a pain — but with Xcel Energy Center (a top venue, to be sure) as part of the pitch, the appeal to attend a Lynx game became a little sweeter. From the Star Tribune:

“We’re actually going to be one of the few teams in the league that has experienced being displaced from your home, having a second facility, and actually growing our business,” Lynx coach Cheryl Reeve said. “A lot of teams lose their business and have a hard time getting their fans back when they return. We’re going to grow.”

“We completely underestimated, going into this, the true opportunity,” Lynx/Timberwolves President Chris Wright said. “We knew we had an opportunity. We didn’t know the level of the opportunity.”

Knowing the move was coming, the Lynx marketing department put together a plan to reach St. Paul and its suburbs, something the team has never really done. According to Wright, only about 15 to 20 percent of the team’s season-ticket holders come from the east metro. Now that area has become a focus.

The Lynx ranked fourth in WNBA attendance in 2016, trailing Phoenix, New York and Los Angeles. It will be interesting to see where the team ends up at the end of the 2017 season.

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