A Force for Storm Fans
On the historic Beaufort scale, Force 10 is the point at which bad weather officially becomes a storm. The newly-formed Force 10 Hoops, L.L.C. was created to ensure that the WNBA's Storm continues in Seattle.
WNBA President Donna Orender was on hand at The Furtado Center Tuesday to help announce that Force 10 Hoops, made up of local businesswomen Anne Levinson, Ginny Gilder, Lisa Brummel and Dawn Trudeau, had secured an option to purchase the Seattle Storm from The Professional Basketball Club, LLC, owners of the NBA's SuperSonics and the Storm.
"This really is an exciting day," said Levinson. "We are very pleased to be able to step forward to say that we are here to ensure that Seattle will be the Stormís home. This is something that we wanted to do for the Stormís fans and for the community."
"Through the last legislative session, when it looked like the arena proposal might not be coming together on the Sonics side," Levinson said, "I reached out to these women here and said if things donít come together in time and it looks like Storm may not be here, would you be willing to join together to see if we canít do something to keep that from happening? To their credit, they all said yes right away."
Initially, Bennett and the PBC were reluctant to part with the Storm and rebuffed Levinson's offer. Ultimately, the strength of the support from the Storm's passionate fanbase and the uniquely strong relationship between city and team proved a key part of the case made by Force 10 to purchase the team. After committing to the Storm playing the upcoming 2008 season at KeyArena, Bennett opened the door for the teams to be separated. Negotiations over the sale concluded over the holidays.
As Levinson noted, none of the members of the new ownership group had long harbored aspirations of owning a pro sports team. In explaining their decision to pursue the Storm, the group cited their commitment to the Seattle community, belief in the importance of women's athletics, their passion for the Storm and the importance of allowing their fellow fans to continue to enjoy the Storm.
"When you see Storm fans renewing their tickets in the middle of complete uncertainty, saying ĎNo, we want you here. This is important to us. Show us some support,' itís nearly impossible to turn that down," explained Brummel. "You donít get that chance that many times in your lives, and I think this is a unique city and a unique fanbase and a unique team and I think we are overjoyed to be a part of this."
"Plus," added Trudeau, "weíve all been season ticket holders the whole time, so we wanted to keep going to the games."
"The seats just got more expensive," joked Brummel in reply.
News of the sale certainly thrilled Storm Chief Operating Officer Karen Bryant, who opened the press conference by asking, "How big is the smile on my face today?"
Bryant's relationship with three of the four members of the ownership group goes back to their involvement with the ABL's Seattle Reign. Bryant, who served as the Reign's GM before helping found the Storm, will continue to have essentially the same duties under the new ownership group.
"It's so great to be able to announce the teamís future is once again secured in the Northwest," Bryant later elaborated. "As you can imagine, having been an integral part of womenís professional basketball in Seattle since its inception I am so excited about the future of this team in Seattle, and the chance to work with these incredible women."
From overseas, Storm players joined in the thrilled reaction. Bryant was unable to reach all of the team's players, scattered throughout Europe and beyond, but did make contact with stars Sue Bird and Lauren Jackson in Russia. Brummel spoke briefly with the players on behalf of the ownership group.
"They were both very enthusiastic about solidifying the Storm here," said Brummel. "They're excited to come back and excited to play the season. Once they get finished with their time in Russia, I think they'll be back here with great enthusiasm. It was great to hear that."
The next step for the prospective new ownership group is earning the approval of the WNBA's Board of Governors and close the transaction before the end of the February, less than three months away from the start of the 2008 season.
"We very much look forward to celebrating our closing in just a few weeks," said Levinson, "and then Opening Night 2008, with a packed house on May 17 at KeyArena."
While there are important decisions ahead in terms of staffing and the behind-the-scenes support for the Storm's business operations, Levinson pledged, "the fan experience will be what it has been before - which is terrific." The new ownership group also declared its intent to continue playing at KeyArena. The Storm's current lease at KeyArena runs through the 2010 season.
In many ways, today's press conference and announcement grew out of that atmosphere at the Key that has become the trademark of Storm basketball. The passion of the Storm's fans was a big reason why the new ownership group stepped up to purchase the team and secure its future in Seattle.
"The Storm is a special part of the fabric of our community," said Levinson. "Itís always a wonderful experience to look at the home crowd to see what a great diverse array of people come to support their team and then to watch the young boys and girls look up to the remarkable women who give their all and exemplify the best of sports. These players have already proven themselves winners on and off the court. We, the new owners, are ready to get to work to do our part to contribute to even greater success."