Michael Alter, owner of Sky, is still reviewing the possibility of adding to the investor group

Sky has come a long way since 2005, when team principal owner Michael Alter established the WNBA’s second independent ownership group and the first in the NBA market.

They found a good home in the Wintrust Arena, signed Naperville producer Candace Parker and brought home a championship—the first WNBA franchise to do so while maintaining independent ownership for the duration of its existence.

But with the league’s expansion looming and teams investing in modern training facilities, Sky has to do work to remain competitive in the long term. Adding their own investor pool is one place to start.

“I was very happy with the investor interest [we’ve received]We are reviewing things and trying to figure out what makes sense for us. We are still at that point,” Alter said.

Alter was in initial talks over the summer with several interested parties, including the Cubs’ royal family, Laura Ricketts. He has not commented on whether those talks have progressed since then but confirmed he is not interested in selling the team.

Seven of the 12 WNBA teams are now independently owned, with two — Aces, under owner Mark Davis, and Storm, under the Force 10 Enterprises group — recently investing in new training facilities. The $40 million Aces site is expected to be completed before the start of next season, while Storm’s, which is expected to cost more than $60 million, should be ready by 2024.

“There are differences in every organization,” Parker said in July. “I’ll just say I think [the Sky] Being in Chicago, practicing and living in Chicago, it’s going to add to the player experience a little bit.”

Alter takes pride in Sky culture, which he credits with allowing the team to land Parker on free agency and retaining players such as guards Courtney Vandersloot and Allie Quigley. Vandersloot has been open about her loyalty which has played a significant role in her re-signing year after year.

However, the upcoming Free Agency period will test whether the culture is enough to put together another contender for the championship. With the exception of goalkeeper/striker Kahleah Copper, Sky’s starting five players will become unrestricted Free Agents in the new year. That includes Vandersloot, which will test the market again, but with two important differences from last year: The Storm has a slot at the sentry point, and Sky can no longer sell it when going for back-to-back titles.

Time will tell if Storm’s investment in player experience, combined with the arena of nearly 20,000 fans in Vandersloot’s home market, will be enough to convince the longest-serving player in Sky to leave. Sky currently practices at the Sachs Entertainment Center in Deerfield. Investments have been made with a new practice court and a modern anti-gravity treadmill, but the goal is for Sky to have its own facilities, which Alter said wouldn’t happen overnight.

On the field, last season was a record-breaker for Sky, who finished with his best regular season record and tied the Aces at the top of the standings ahead of the playoffs. Although their bid for a recurring title collapsed when they lost to the Sun in the semi-finals, they enjoyed the fruits of their previous championship season with increased ticket sales and new partnerships.

From 2021 to 2022, Sky saw a 30% increase in the partnership, which contributed to a 54% increase in revenue. Their three-year radio partnership with the Marquee Network resulted in an average viewing of over 8,000 homes for the season and over 11,000 homes during the second half of the broadcast schedule. Over 20,000 homes were seized in the regular season finale against Mercury.

Full season ticket sales grew more than 175% from 2021 and 2022, partial season tickets saw a 225% increase and total package sales increased by 118%. Sky saw group tickets drop, which the team attributed to ongoing COVID-19 safety measures.

The goal for 2023 is to see a 20% to 30% increase in ticket sales. However, Sky is not open to discussing its profitability, which is not unique to the WNBA.

“We’re getting close, but we’re not there yet,” said CEO Adam Fox. “He is heading in the right direction. We can see the finish line.”

Leave a Comment