In discussing the New York Liberty with YES Network’s Michael Grady, the team’s co-governor Clara Wu Tsai was asked to describe her vision for the WNBA team.
“Investment,” Wu Tsai quickly responded. “We’re going to invest in the New York Liberty the same way we invest in our NBA team,” said Wu Tsai who is co-governor of the Libs with husband Joe Tsai. She did not provide details but noted the investment has already begun.
“And the first thing we did when we bought the team (in 2019) was to move them to Barclays Center because they were playing in a little community gym in Westchester. And we brought them here because we know these women deserve to play in an international arena like and we certainly intend to have them playing in front of a full house.”
Indeed, the Liberty have been a bit of a vagabond, playing in FIVE different venues over the last decade. They played three seasons at Prudential Center in 2011, 2012, and 2013 while MSG was being renovated before returning to the Garden for the 2014, 2015, 2016 and 2017 seasons. In 2018 and 2019, they were in Westchester, 2020 in the WNBA’s “wubble” in Bradenton, Florida, before finally putting down roots in Brooklyn last season.
The Liberty averaged a little more than 1,800 fans a home game this past season. They ranked ninth in a 12-team league There are a lot of reasons why the Liberty are attracting only about a sixth of what they were seeing at Madison Square Garden before James Dolan moved the Liberty to Westchester in 2018. The WNBA needs the Liberty, who once provided one-quarter of league attendance, to succeed if it is to succeed.
The Tsais are confident they can improve the team’s attendance — “give it time,” said Joe Tsai in an interview with NetsDaily last month — and visibility. Liberty players have had front row seats for Nets games at Barclays and at the Nets Practice-in-the-Park and Nets players, including Kevin Durant, have showed up at Liberty games.
There have also been improvements on the court for the Libs, including making the playoffs, as Wu Tsai noted.
“This year, we had Michaela Onynewere. She was the rookie of the year for the league. We had an All-Star in Betnijah Laney. We had our first playoff appearance since 2017 and then Sabrina Ionescu, her jersey is the highest selling jersey in the entire league. So we look forward to more playoff appearances, more championship runs and the future is really bright for that team.”
Wu Tsai has also provided a personal touch. In September, in the midst of a losing streak, Clara and Joe Tsai decided to fly the team to a toney resort in Northern California’s Napa Valley for some much needed R&R on Labor Day Weekend.
In his interview with ND, Joe Tsai laid out what he thought was a reasonable goal for attendance in the near future.
“I think we should at least fill the lower bowl with a view of getting — I feel like we should get 6,000 to 8,000. I hope we can get to that level and we can build on that, and hopefully have like 12,000 at some point. Maybe not next season, but in the future.”