It’s been a year since James Dolan announced his intent to sell the New York Liberty, and the team is still on the market.
There have been several potential buyers and a few have gotten close to purchasing the team, but for various reasons all the potential deals fell through. Even without a new owner on the horizon and the Liberty in the same situation as last November, there is no danger of the team ceasing to exist this winter.
“There is no risk of the Liberty folding in the offseason,” NBA Commissioner Adam Silver said in a phone interview. “Jim has been very helpful to the league on the Liberty. Even though the team wasn’t sold on his initial timeline, he indicated he would do whatever is necessary to support the transition to a new owner.”
The Liberty said in a statement they would “work closely with the WNBA to find the right steward for the team moving forward.”
New York tried to make itself more appealing to a new owner by strengthening its financial structure after incurring heavy losses over the first 21 years. The team said before the season that it had “lost money every year since its inception and cumulative losses exceed $100 million.”
Moving most of the home games to Westchester this past season did help the Liberty lose less money, although the franchise declined to comment on this season’s financial situation.
Operating costs at the Westchester County Center were nearly 20 times less than playing a game at Madison Square Garden. The move to the WCC wasn’t popular with longtime fans who would either have to drive or take a commuter train to reach the new arena.
The team dropped from fourth in attendance in 2017 to last in the league this past season, averaging 2,823 fans. That number was even smaller when the two kids’ day games at MSG were taken out, with just 1,886 fans coming to the 15 Westchester dates. They couldn’t routinely fill the arena, which was configured to hold only 2,319 fans.
The team plans on playing its games at the arena next year as well and already has sent out ticket renewal forms to its fans. The Liberty didn’t announce they were playing at Westchester until February last season.
Improved play on the court could also help draw more fans. The Liberty struggled this season, finishing with the second-worst record in the league. To the Liberty players’ credit, they didn’t publicly grumble about the change in venue, which lacks many amenities of an NBA facility.
The union has discussed the arena issues with the league.
Source: The Associated Press