Friday, December 06, 2002

WNBA CRAPPING OUT WATCH: The Utah team is moving to San Antonio, which leaves the two Florida teams still homeless. The city of Hartford remains confident. And, yes, the leading candidate for ownership of the Connecticut team is a casino:

A group of Hartford businessmen who are interested includes LAZ Parking chairman Alan Lazowski and former UConn player Corny Thompson. Steve Fox, who owns the NWBL's Springfield Spirit, said he is focusing on his upcoming season but that he would like to explore the possibility in the future.

They all want to bring the WNBA to Hartford, which is where Lt. Gov. Jodi Rell would like to see a team.

"Absolutely," said Rell, who has talked with both the league and interested local parties. "We have the Civic Center. We have a built-in fan base. It's a natural fit."

But she said she didn't want to discourage others who are interested, such as the Mohegan Tribe, which would place the team in the Mohegan Sun Arena in Montville. The tribe is interested in owning a team and has been in touch with the WNBA.

Of the five, the Mohegan Sun group is probably the most prepared to put a team in place by 2003. The tribe owns the arena and has staff for public relations, marketing and other needs already in place. It also has the most money.

The NBA has no rules against placing a WNBA or NBA team in a casino, as long as there is no sports book (there isn't at Mohegan Sun). In October, WNBA president Val Ackerman said she couldn't rule out the casino arena. But the WNBA targets families and children for their audiences, and some may be reluctant to go to a casino for the games.

UPDATE: USA Today claims the WNBA will survive. I do love the niche sports.

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