Chicago Sky ticket sales soar after WNBA draft: ‘These women are worth the money’

Ticket sales for the Chicago Sky are soaring after the team selected three star players in the WNBA draft Monday, the latest surge of support for women’s basketball nationwide.

With the No. 3 and No. 7 picks, the Sky added South Carolina center Kamilla Cardoso and LSU forward Angel Reese to its roster. In the second round, the Sky selected Gonzaga guard Brynna Maxwell with the 13th pick.

“If you’re not going to a Sky game this year, I don’t know what you’re doing,” said Karli Bell, the Chicago Sky reporter for Marquee Sports Network. “This is going to be that new generation that’s going to bring in those fans.”

With an increase of televised games, as well as the addition of the “March Madness” trademark to the women’s college bracket in 2022, the historically overlooked sport has seen a renaissance in recent years. This year, ratings for the NCAA women’s title game topped the men’s championship, with an average of 18.7 million viewers.

Many have dubbed the phenomena the “Caitlin Clark effect. ” Clark, a former guard for the University of Iowa, was this year’s No. 1 pick. Tickets for a June 23 game between the Chicago Sky and the Indiana Fever — the team that drafted Clark — are nearly sold out on Ticketmaster, with prices as high as $1,700. The cheapest tickets are $225.

“There has definitely been an increase in ticket sales throughout the year that coincides with the tremendous amount of talent coming out of the NCAA and into the WNBA this upcoming season,” Anthony Whaley, Sky vice president of ticket sales, said in a statement. “Fans are wanting to watch more women’s basketball and the growth in our ticket sales has reflected that.”

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Other popular games this season include the May 25 home opener against Connecticut Sun, as well as match-ups with the Los Angeles Sparks, Las Vegas Aces and New York Liberty, according to Whaley.

Season ticket purchases are also dramatically increasing. Among those season ticket holders? Lori Lightfoot. The former mayor and her wife have had season tickets since the launch of the Chicago Sky franchise in 2006. Lightfoot attended the team’s official draft watch party Monday night.

“Women’s basketball has been a thing of beauty and excitement for decades, and so as a long time fan, I could not be more thrilled that a much broader audience is discovering the incredibly talented athletes who keep pushing this sport to higher heights,” Lightfoot said in a statement. “Chicago is a big sports town and we join Sky fans who are very excited to see these three new draft picks in action.”

The decisions surrounding the Sky’s draft picks were rooted in business as much as basketball, according to Bell. The players, who have large social media followings, will help cultivate a generational fan base. Though most female basketball players peak from ages 25 to 29, all three rookies are expected to see significant playing time this season, she added.

“What the Sky did, instead of building a team to win now, they started the development for later,” Bell said. “From a business standpoint, they’ll capitalize on it. Everyone wants to see Angel.”

Belmont Cragin resident Alena Scarver, 40, has been following the Sky for about a decade. She usually attends three or four games a season, but prices have already begun to rise after Monday’s draft.

“I was like, ‘Oh man, this kind of hits the pockets a little bit,’” Scarver said. “But overall, I’m happy about it, because I’ve always felt that the women’s professional game never really got the attention that it deserved.”

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In past seasons, Scarver never had to pay more than $75 per seat. Still, it will be worth it to watch the revamped team chemistry when they step on the court, she said.

“These women are worth the money and worth the respect,” Scarver said. “I mean, we pay just as much for Bears tickets, for Bulls tickets.”

Jerseys for the Sky’s newest additions will be available in select Dick’s Sporting Goods stores across the Chicago area when the regular season kicks off in late May, a company spokesperson said.

Detroit native Biba Adams has never attended a Chicago Sky game. This year, the 44-year-old hopes to drive into the city with her best friend to watch. She was captivate by Clark, Reese and other players during the recent NCAA tournament.

“I really think that this could be a new era of people being excited about women’s basketball, which, obviously, should raise ticket prices, raise salaries,” Adams said. “I think this season will be sensational.”