It is not often a professional team plays a “home” game at a high school arena. But then, it isn’t often Chicagoans experience several consecutive days of 80 degree weather in March. 2012 is proving to be a year of exceptions to those rules.
The Sky, who play their regular season home games at Allstate Arena, chose to come to the North Shore to play this game despite the much smaller capacity of a high school gymnasium.
“It is a preseason game, and we believed that it would be a really cool opportunity from a marketing standpoint to be able to expose people to what we are doing,” noted Adam Fox, the Sky’s president and CEO. “For the people who have not seen our game or product, we are going to bring the game to the people.”
This is the first time the Sky, which is starting its seventh WNBA campaign this year, will play a home game at a high school facility. The team hopes for a crowd of ranging between 1,800 and 2,000 people. Proceeds from the game will go to the New Trier booster club.
The Sky had been kicking around the idea of playing at a high school venue for some time and eventually came to the conclusion that coming up Sheridan Road was the best place to start this experiment. If successful, this could be the launch of a new team tradition.
“We talked to a handful of schools and the folks at were quite enthusiastic about the opportunity, and we know we enjoy pretty good support within the area and it seemed like a great fit to kick this off,” Fox said.
While the Sky has yet to qualify for the post season in its relatively brief history, they do feature two star players in Sylvia Fowles and Swin Cash who may very well represent the U.S. at the Olympic Games this summer in London. Getting a chance to be this close to star athletes could prove to be very exciting for any aspiring Trevian.
Both Sky and New Trier officials promise there will be plenty of interaction between the players and the fans, particularly the high school athletes.
“This is a great opportunity for our community to see some of the most exceptional athletes in the country in their field performing at our venue,” said New Trier Athletic Director Randy Oberembt. “This is about identification of very positive role models for young men and young women. For any aspiring athlete of either gender, this is an opportunity to see the most successful people in their field.”
But of course there are monetary reasons for the Sky to want to play on the North Shore. The area potentially provides many individual, season and group sales opportunities, as well as possible sponsorships. So if for one night the players have to play in a gym that was constructed in 1927 and has a relatively small seating capacity, so be it.
“Chicago is a crowded sports marketplace and you are trying to get that niche audience, at the same time looking to branch out as well,” said Jon Greenberg, executive editor of the Wilmette-based Team Marketing Report, which studies the business side of sports.
But this should be an opportunity for some grand times to be had by all. “It is always good for a professional team to get into a neighborhood or community,” Greenberg said. “It shows the players are accessible and it should be a fun thing for the school. It will probably be a fun thing for the players.”