June 25, 2024

More than 16,000 fans buzzed in Edmonton’s Rogers Place. Christine Monjer scanned the crowd before the Sparks’ preseason game against the Seattle Storm and saw couples on a date night, families with their kids, people who looked like former basketball players and others who appeared to have never played the game. All were lined up in a merchandise line that wrapped around the concourse.

The Sparks team president stood in awe.

“This isn’t the W from 10 years ago,” Monjer said, “this is just a brand new era for us, so we’re meeting the moment.”

The Sparks are hoping to surf the WNBA’s tidal wave of popularity to reignite an organization that has fallen from grace in the midst of a three-season playoff drought. The pivotal season reaches an early crest Friday as the Sparks host Caitlin Clark’s Indiana Fever at 7 p.m. at Crypto.com Arena in the star rookie’s only regular-season game in L.A. this year.

The Sparks made arrangements late last year with Long Beach State to play five games at the Pyramid due to a renovation project at Crypto.com Arena. But in the last month, the organization called to let officials know their plans had changed, first for the Fever game, then for the next two games after that, said Mike Habura, associate athletics director for facilities and event operations, who manages the Pyramid.

The team cited a need for increased capacity as the reason for the move, he said. Some renovations in Crypto.com Arena were postponed, Monjer said, which was partly why some games could return.

Ticket prices changed accordingly — according to Stubhub, the average price of tickets sold when the game was still at the Pyramid was $253. After the game changed venues, the price dropped to $192.

Seeing the high demand, Monjer still wanted to make a positive first impression on fans who could be attending their first WNBA game. The team president, who joined the Sparks in March after helping build the Las Vegas Aces into one of the most recognizable WNBA brands, capped the price for tickets bought directly from the team at $50 for the top level.

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