WNBA President Val Ackerman said tonight that some teams have had consistently good attendance records, but some, such as Utah, have slipped and will be evaluated at the end of the season. Ackerman said the league is committed to sticking with the struggling franchises. Utah is 5-8 this season and drew only 5,030 for its last home game, an 80-66 loss to Phoenix on Monday.
"I'm pretty comfortable, particularly in the case of Utah, that the team is on the right track," Ackerman said during a state-of-the-league news conference before tonight's All-Star Game at Madison Square Garden.
"As I said, we have gone into this expecting that in some cases it may take a bit longer [for the team's attendance to go up]. But it wasn't overnight that the Jazz was a success in Utah."
Ackerman said that overall, the results are encouraging midway through the league's third season.
"I can tell you we've done a pretty successful job in every city that we're operating in," Ackerman said.
"When we went into this, I told a lot of you that I thought we would average 5,000 fans a game. . . . We did a lot better than that.
"Every team has exceeded our initial expectations and then some," she said. "But what has happened is that some teams have done very well and that, to some degree, changes the perspective and makes the bar higher for other teams."
With the WNBA adding four expansion teams next year, Ackerman said that it's important to keep the expansion within the league's original plan, which is to put teams only in cities that have NBA teams.
"We made some assumptions on where the WNBA would be successful and our premise has always been that it would take a number of years to develop a fan base in those cities," Ackerman said.
"That having been said, we do have the right to assess performance and under-performance in all of our cities. It's a process we won't undertake until the end of the season."
Ackerman mentioned Washington forward Chamique Holdsclaw when citing examples of players who would help the league's popularity grow.
"I would say that I do expect that Chamique and players like her are going to be the reason why the WNBA will continue to grow, to not only maintain our existing fans but hopefully attract new fans," Ackerman said.
"For us, our growth story is going to be directly linked to how fans perceive our product, how fun and exciting and competitive they think our games are . . . and I think Chamique is just the type of player [who] is going to keep fans very excited about women's basketball."
CAPTION: WNBA's Val Ackerman cites Chamique Holdsclaw, right, as a player who will help spur fan interest in the league.