WNBA President: ‘A Great Day for Storm Fans’

Local Ownership Group Secures Option to Purchase Storm
Orender: 'A Great Day for Storm Fans'
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Jonathan Tallariti, storm.wnba.com | January 8, 2008
WNBA President Donna Orender was in Seattle on Tuesday gleaming with enthusiasm, confidence, passion and delight as she talked about the upcoming season, which will be the 12th for the league. She raved about the incoming draft class, new sponsors and television contract, all of which revolve around the continued commitment of building a bright future for the WNBA - a future that will include the Storm in Seattle.

Orender announced that the Seattle Storm has been sold to a group of four women from the Seattle area with one common goal: to keep the Storm in Seattle, playing at KeyArena.

“Today is a great day for Storm fans,” Orender said. “Seattle is a terrific WNBA city and I'm thrilled for Storm fans who have been so supportive of their team over the years. What this group of women is doing is yet another example of that famous Seattle civic leadership. I have no doubt that this group of women, with support from the public, business community and elected officials, will be able to make a strong case for this sale to be approved by the Board of Governors.”

"I'm thrilled for Storm fans who have been so supportive of their team over the years."
Terrence Vaccaro/NBAE/Getty
The Storm followed a recent trend in becoming one of the teams that does not have an affiliation with an NBA team. The Storm is one out of seven franchises in the 14- team league with independent ownership.

The Storm’s new owners - Anne Levinson, Dawn Trudeau, Lisa Brummel and Ginny Gilder, who make up Force 10 Hoops, L.L.C - are the latest to follow in the steps of independent ownership first established in 2003 by the Mohegan Sun Tribe, owners of the Connecticut Sun. The Sun was the only independently-owned team until a surge that started in 2005 with Chicago. Washington, Los Angeles, Houston, Atlanta and now Seattle are all in the mix.

The new Storm owners have a shared interest in bringing about equal opportunity for women and girls in our society and they understand the role they can play in the future for helping other’s achieve their goals.

“Admittedly, it is unusual for women to be owners of a professional sports team. The truth is that we’re doing this out of a shared commitment to the community in which we live and to the philosophy that women and girls should have every chance to compete at every level,” Levinson said. “We each have a special place in our hearts for opportunity for girls and women to excel in sports. We all came of age during title nine and had opportunities that those who came before us never had. And so we understand that being able to compete at a professional level, in turn gives the next generation our daughters and our nieces a chance to set their sights even higher.”

The Storm’s new ownership group understands that there are differences in operating independently versus operating alongside an NBA team.

“One of the differences in having a team that’s a combined franchise, an NBA/WNBA team together, is that you can share expenses,” Levinson said. "When you’re a standalone team it does get more expensive, so one of our first responsibilities, which we’re going to jump right in on, is how do you increase revenues, do other things to make up for that difference in expense while not raising ticket prices? The whole nature of this is to keep it affordable for families all across our community. So we will be actively engaged very soon in discussions with our corporate friends to talk about sponsorships there, we’ll be looking to the public, the private sector, to local government to ask folks what they think might be an appropriate role for everybody to play in helping this franchise be sustained for many years to come.”

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The Storm appears to be in good shape for making a successful transition to being independent. Seattle has been one of the WNBA’s most consistently winning franchises since joining the league in 2000. With four straight playoff appearances, a 2004 championship, superstars such as Sue Bird and Lauren Jackson and a supportive fan base, the Storm have the tools to maintain success in the coming years.

The fans that have continued to support the Storm through the past eight years have been recognized by the organization.

“I want to acknowledge and thank our fans,” said Karen Bryant, the Storm’s chief operating officer. "They have stuck with us through thick and thin. Their passion and their love of this team is inspirational. We look forward to celebrating with them very soon.”

The other independently-owned teams in the league and their owners have already left a good impression with the Storm’s new owners, and they will continue to look to them in the future.

“Our negotiations were confidential throughout, and it was important that we do that in order to be successful,” Levinson said. “Since we're public, they have reached out to us already, and it's terrific. There's a camaraderie in this league amongst the others. We're really looking forward to learning from them and sharing ideas. They've just been very gracious.”