WNBA Comes to Connecticut

NEW YORK (Jan. 28, 2003) -- Connecticut has been awarded a WNBA team for the 2003 season, it was announced today by WNBA President Val Ackerman. The new team, the Connecticut Sun, will be owned and operated by the Mohegan Sun, which becomes the first non-NBA owner of a WNBA team. The Connecticut Sun will be the first independently owned and operated WNBA team and will also become the first WNBA team to make its home in a non-NBA market.

Nykesha Sales and the Orlando Miracle are headed to Connecticut.
M. David Leeds
WNBAE/Getty Images
“The WNBA is thrilled to be bringing professional basketball to a state that perhaps more than any other epitomizes what women’s basketball can be – competitive, exciting and supported by knowledgeable and loyal fans,” said Ackerman. “The Connecticut Sun will be playing in a world-class facility and will be promoted by a sophisticated management team that has proven it knows how to showcase great sporting events.”

The Sun will feature players from the Orlando Miracle roster, headlined by former University of Connecticut star Nykesha Sales, who will be making a return to her home state with the new franchise. The Sun will play its home games at Mohegan Sun Arena, a state-of-the-art facility with a seating capacity of 10,000, located in Uncasville, Connecticut. The Mohegan Sun Arena has hosted numerous nationally and internationally televised sports and entertainment events, including pre-season NBA games, women’s tennis, ice skating, the PBA Tournament of Champions on ESPN, the Harlem Globetrotters, and men’s and women’s college basketball games. The Arena is also a prime location for music concerts with top entertainers.

"The Mohegan Tribe is proud to bring professional women’s basketball to Connecticut,” said Mark Brown, chairman of the Mohegan Tribe. “No other state can compare with Connecticut in its love and enthusiasm for women’s basketball, and we’re happy to give fans the opportunity to see the game played at the highest level, in an amazing venue.”

Val Ackerman presents a jersey to Mark Brown, chairman of the Mohegan Tribe.
M. David Leeds/WNBAE/Getty Images
The Mohegan Sun will draw upon a fan base in a tri-states area, including Connecticut, Rhode Island and Massachusetts. Management of the Connecticut Sun includes Mohegan Sun employees Mitchell Etess, Executive Vice President of Marketing; Paul Munick, Vice President of Sports & Entertainment; and Chris Sienko, Director of Sports & Entertainment. Munick’s past experience includes holding the position of Vice President of Sports & Family Entertainment at Madison Square Garden as well as tournament director for the Women’s Tennis Association’s year-ending Chase Championships. Sienko previously served as the General Manager for the ABL’s New England Blizzard.

"Bringing the WNBA to Connecticut demonstrates our strong commitment to delivering high caliber, fan-friendly sports and entertainment options to New England," said Mitchell Etess, Executive Vice President of Marketing, Mohegan Sun. "Our 9,700-seat arena is a favorite destination for fans seeking a wide array of entertainment, concerts and sporting events including world championship boxing matches, fast-paced professional and college basketball and hard-hitting arena football2 games."

Connecticut fans will be able to welcome a host of former UConn stars to Mohegan Sun Arena. In addition to Sales, there are currently 10 former Huskies -- including Sue Bird, Swin Cash, Tamika Williams and Asjha Jones from the 2002 national championship team -- featured on eight other WNBA rosters. Additional Huskies in the WNBA include Rebecca Lobo, Jennifer Rizzotti, Kara Wolters, Rita Williams, Svetlana Abrosimova and Kelly Schumacher.

The Connecticut Sun joins the WNBA under the league’s new operating model. In October, the NBA Board of Governors voted to restructure the WNBA to allow individual team ownership and non-NBA owners, and to allow teams to be located in non-NBA markets. The league will feature 14 teams in 2003, with the Eastern and Western Conferences comprised of seven teams apiece.

A record 2,362,430 fans attended WNBA games during the 2002 season, with an average attendance of 9,228 fans, up from 9,075 in 2001. The 2002 WNBA Finals concluded with the Los Angeles Sparks capturing their second consecutive WNBA title. The league enters its seventh season in 2003, with the WNBA All-Star Game marking its fifth anniversary with a return to Madison Square Garden on Saturday, July 12. The event will be held on the weekend for the first time and make its network television debut on ABC. For more information on the WNBA, visit www.wnba.com.

Mohegan Sun, owned by The Mohegan Tribe, is one of the largest, most distinctive and spectacular entertainment, gaming, shopping, hotel and meetings destinations in the United States. Situated in scenic Southeastern Connecticut, Mohegan Sun is within easy access of New York, Boston, Hartford and Providence. The 10,000-seat Mohegan Sun Arena hosts major entertainment and sporting events.