Atlanta Dream ownership has confirmed that the club will not return to State Farm Arena in 2020, marking the latest move of a WNBA team out of an NBA venue.
For most of its 12 seasons in Atlanta, the Dream has played at State Farm Arena (formerly Philips Arena). The only exceptions were the 2017 and 2018 seasons spent at Georgia Tech’s McCamish Pavilion, a shift the Dream made to accommodate construction on a multiphase State Farm Arena renovation led by the NBA’s Atlanta Hawks. The Dream returned to the venue this spring for the 2019 WNBA season, as the renovation project was completed last fall, but now co-owners Mary Brock and Kelly Loeffler are searching for another home for the franchise.
The Dream and Hawks did not come to an agreement that would allow the franchises to continue sharing the arena. A search for a new home for the Dream is underway, with Brock and Loeffler believing that there are several solid options in the Atlanta region that could accommodate the club. No announcement on a new home for the Dream has been made, with a decision expected to be weeks away. More from the Atlanta Journal-Constitution:
While the owners said they had hoped to remain at State Farm, there has been no deal worked out with the Hawks, who operate the big downtown arena. The Dream has spent all but two of its 12 seasons there, housed at Georgia Tech’s McCamish Pavilion in 2017 and ’18 while the Hawks home was being renovated.
“Playing at State Farm was a tremendous opportunity for our fans to experience really a world-class arena,” Loeffler said. “We’re really grateful to have been able to offer that experience to our fans. But we unfortunately won’t be able to return. We understand that’s a business decision. The good news is there is a lot of venues interested in hosting the Dream – that’s our focus right now.”
“There are a lot of options, a lot of people out there who would like to have the Dream. We’re in the middle of the decision-making process right now,” Brock said, adding that the decision remains weeks away.
There has been a trend in recent years of WNBA teams leaving NBA arenas permanently, opting to set up shop in smaller venues in an effort to ease operations and facilitate more favorable economic conditions. The 2019 season marked the first for the Washington Mystics at the Entertainment and Sports Arena, a 4,200-capacity venue that provides far smaller confines than their previous home, Capital One Arena. The New York Liberty made a similar move in the recent past, shifting its primary home from Madison Square Garden to the Westchester County Center in 2018. (The Westchester County Center remained the Liberty’s primary home in 2019, with select games played at Brooklyn’s Barclays Center.)
In theory, the Dream could follow that model, given that the Atlanta area has a solid slate of collegiate venues and some suburban arenas that would represent smaller options than State Farm Arena. (In fact, that’s the model used by the Atlanta Hawks when it came to the team’s new G League entry: the College Park Skyhawks will set up shop at Gateway Center at College Park, a 3,500-seat multipurpose sports and entertainment venue in suburban Atlanta.) Until the organization settles on its next home, however, it remains to be seen exactly what it will plan for 2020 and beyond.
For the WNBA, the Dream’s move out of State Farm Arena would represent the league’s latest facility change for 2020. It has already been confirmed that the Phoenix Mercury will move to Arizona Veterans Memorial Coliseum to accommodate Talking Stick Resort Arena renovation work, while the Indiana Fever will shift to Butler University’s Hinkle Fieldhouse as upgrades unfold at Bankers Life Fieldhouse. In the Fever’s case, the move to Butler will cover the entirety of the 2020 and 2021 seasons, and at least part of the 2022 campaign.
Image courtesy Atlanta Dream.
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