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2019 WNBA Preview: Big Changes on the Arena Front

Washington Entertainment and Sports Arena

When it comes to arenas, the 2019 WNBA season will see several notable developments in the form of closings, reopenings, and new facilities. One team will be displaced by construction, while another will return to a renovated arena, and a third is set to play its first game at a new venue.

Since beginning play in 2000, the Seattle Storm have become a fixture at KeyArena–compiling plenty of memorable moments, including three WNBA titles along the way. The facility is now closed, however, as an extensive project led and financed by Oak View Group is underway in order to give Seattle a modern arena that will host an NHL expansion team starting in 2021 and will be designed to accommodate a potential NBA team.

The project is certainly complex in scope, as it calls for leaving KeyArena’s distinguished roofline intact, but essentially gutting and rebuilding the interior to create a modern facility. Construction began in December and will not wrap up until 2021–project officials are hoping that it will be delivered by that summer–meaning that scheduling for at least the Storm’s next two seasons will be affected.

Plans for the 2019 season took shape some time ago, with the University of Washington’s Alaska Airlines Arena set to host 12 of the team’s 17 home games. The additional five contests, most notably including the May 25 regular-season opener, will be played at Everett’s Angel of the Winds Arena–which will also host a preseason contest on May 15. There has been no announcement yet regarding the Storm’s home venue or venues for the 2020 season.

In Atlanta, the Atlanta Dream are returning to the newly renovated State Farm Arena. Formerly known as Philips Arena, State Farm Arena closed over the previous two summers to accommodate major construction work on a multi-phase, $192.5-million renovation led by the NBA’s Atlanta Hawks. As a result of the construction, the Dream shifted home games to Georgia Tech’s McCamish Pavilion. Before the renovations began, the Dream’s initial run at State Farm Arena lasted from 2008-2016–a stretch that included three WNBA Finals appearances.

This season will also see a major facility development for the Washington Mystics, who will finally get their first look at the new St. Elizabeths East Entertainment and Sports Arena. Opening last fall, the facility includes an arena that seats over 4,000 for basketball. In addition to the Mystics, the arena also hosts the NBA Gatorade League’s Capital City Go-Go-which just recently concluded its inaugural season.

From a league-wide perspective, the Mystics’ shift to a new arena will provide another example of an ongoing trend of WNBA teams downsizing their facilities. Rather than continue to compete in much larger NBA arenas, many WNBA teams have in recent years shifted to smaller facilities, a move to ease operations and seek more favorable economic conditions. The Mystics are arriving at the new Entertainment and Sports Arena after years of playing at Capital One Arena, which is owned and operated by Monumental Sports & Entertainment-the same organization that owns the Mystics, Go-Go, NBA’s Wizards, and NHL’s Capitals, among other franchises.

The WNBA regular-season begins on May 24, featuring 12 teams and a 34-game schedule.

This article originally appeared in the weekly Arena Digest newsletter. Are you a subscriber? Click here to sign up for the free weekly newsletter

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