WNBA All-Star: The Case for Minnesota

Minnesota Lynx Arena

WNBA President Laurel Richie announced on Wednesday that the 2015 WNBA All-Star Game will be played in Mohegan Sun Arena…again. This will be Connecticut’s fourth time hosting the mid-summer showcase, which is the most by any state. Atlanta, Chicago, Indianapolis, Los Angeles, Minneapolis, Seattle and Tulsa have yet to host one. In order to continue the growth and visibility of the league, the WNBA should play the game in different cities more often.

West coast teams haven’t received much love when it comes to All-Star Games, hosting only three of the 12 so far. In 2014, the game was set for Phoenix, and Richie stated it would be “nice to come West” since they had been on the East Coast for so long. The Mercury organization and fans were thrilled. Adding to the fan excitement, the Mercury had three All-Star selections. But after a great turnout and game at US Airways Center, the game is back at the Mohegan Sun.

Yes, many of the WNBA’s most-recognizable players were standouts at the University of Connecticut, so it is easy to understand why the area means so much to the league. The state is known by most as the home of women’s basketball, and fans in the area proudly support the league by coming to the All-Star Game in sell-out crowds.

But the Western Conference deserves some more consideration. These fans love women’s basketball, too. It’s time for Minnesota to host the All-Star Game.

Connecticut Sun CEO Mitchell Etess said Wednesday, “The combination of the venue and our passionate fan base makes us the perfect showcase for the WNBA All-Star Game.” True, however Minnesota can make the same argument, but stronger.

Minnesota lacks nothing in terms of venue. The Target Center is in the middle of downtown Minneapolis surrounded by bars, theaters, restaurants and more. It features a skyway system connecting visitors to various upscale entertainment options available before and after games. The venue is near three Metro Transit stations so attendees can travel safely to and from the arena, plus there is ample parking close by. Most importantly, the Target Center can be opened up to almost 20,000 screaming basketball fans.

And the Minnesota fans will be there.

The Lynx tipped their 2014 home-opener against the Sun before a sellout crowd of 9,434 excited fans. For the rest of the home games, they had an average attendance of 9,333. This was less than 50 fans per game than in 2013, but still nearly 2,000 more than the 2014 league average of 7,578 fans. Comparatively, Minnesota welcomed 3,353 more fans on average than Connecticut during the season. The passion they have for the game cannot be overlooked.

Of course, their in-game success is predicated on the strength of their “Big 3”.

Minnesota is home to three of the WNBA’s best: Seimone Augustus, Maya Moore and home-town hero Lindsay Whalen. The Olympians and perennial All-Stars have led the Lynx to two of the last four league championships and are poised to make another run in 2015.

With 2016 being an Olympic year, there probably won’t be an All-Star game, but 2017 is as good a time as any for Minnesota. The WNBA should ride the Minnesota’s momentum and reward the city’s success and fan support with an All-Star Game.

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