Not all Chicago Sky fans on board with move
It will take Doris Jackson 90 minutes, more than double the times she spends now, to get to Chicago Sky games next season.
Not that she minds.
"I'm a junkie," said the 73-year-old Jackson, a Sky season-ticket holder since the team's inaugural season in 2006. "I'll go anywhere they go."
And go is what the Sky is doing. Chicago's WNBA team will be back in the city next season, moving from its eight-year home at Allstate Arena in northwest suburban Rosemont to the new Wintrust Arena in the South Loop, where the primary tenants will be the DePaul men's and women's basketball teams.
Jackson, who lives on the city's far north side and does not have a car, will need to ride multiple trains and busses to get to Wintrust, which is near McCormick Place and will be a more quaint fit for women's basketball at a capacity of 10,300 compared to the much larger Allstate Arena (18,500).
"I'm always for positive change," said Jackson, who spends around 40 minutes getting to Allstate for games. "I love the (Wintrust) facility. I've been there (on a few tours) already. It's brand new and people like new things. I think when people see it, they might not mind coming so far."
Sky officials say they have loved their time at Allstate but were looking to reinvigorate the team's connection to communities in the city. The Sky, which signed a five-year agreement with Wintrust, moved out of its first home, the UIC Pavilion in the near West Loop, after the 2009 season.
One of the biggest reasons for the move out of UIC was to draw in the suburban crowd.
Now, some fans from the suburbs are concerned about the longer commute back into the city for games. They aren't as nonchalant as Jackson about that change.
"My first reaction was: I don't know if I can do it. I remember how tough it was to get to UIC," said Lorri Gyenes, a Glen Ellyn resident who has been a season-ticket holder since the Sky's second season. "I've already talked to about 15 season-ticket holders who are not going to renew their seats because they just can't get (to Wintrust) in time (for games). They find that logistically, it's just not workable for them. I'm sad about that. For me, it's about more than just coming to watch basketball. There's a sense of family and community here (at Allstate) and I'm friends with a lot of the people here. We do tailgating before games and it's a lot of fun.
"So to hear that a lot of people can't do (Wintrust), including one of my closest friends who lives out in Aurora and just doesn't think she could make it into the city for games, makes me sad."
Gyenes says she will continue to be a season-ticket holder, but she's not sure she'll be able to make it to every game. She already leaves work early to make it on time to some games at Allstate, which is a far closer drive for her than Wintrust.
She says she is considering dropping down to a half-season ticket package.
Meanwhile, Pamela Sims, a first-year season-ticket holder, is still wavering about whether or not she'll renew. The Evanston resident currently has a straight shot down Oakton Street to get to Allstate.
"Allstate is very convenient to Evanston," Sims said. "I understand the idea of wanting (a smaller stadium) that is more quaint and something in the city. But I'm concerned about anything around McCormick. It's 30 to 40 minutes just to get up the (parking garage) ramp. So we all might make it there for halftime."
Sims says that she has been to other events near the bustling McCormick Place in which getting in and out of parking structures has been a significant challenge. She is hoping the Sky and Wintrust Arena officials will address that issue before the start of next season.
"It's a concern for me, just getting around near the facility," Sims said. "It's an issue. I've seen it with other events there. I think there's going to have to be some re-design there with entry.
"I'm just not sure what I'm going to do (about season tickets for next year). I'm still praying on it."
Sky president Adam Fox wants to assure fans that team officials are listening to concerns about the new building and are out to make the transition smooth and enjoyable.
"It was a tough decision to leave (Allstate). It's been a great building. It's a first-class facility," Fox said. "But the chance to connect with the community we serve in the city can help us grow our foundation. It made sense for us to give it a shot down there.
"We know it's a possibility that it will be a little more difficult for some folks to get (to Wintrust), but we also know there are really great options for how to get down there. Given we play a majority of our games on the weekend, we think that will still give us the opportunity to get people down to that building."
The Sky draws about 7,000 fans per game at Allstate. The players are excited to play in an arena in which 7,000 fans will feel more like a raucous, sellout crowd.
"Going to some of the other smaller arenas in the WNBA always feels a little more exciting to have everyone on top of you," said Sky guard Allie Quigley, a former DePaul star who is the Sky's leading scorer this season (16.9 ppg) and is coming off her first All-Star Game appearance. "Everyone (on the team) has always kind of talked about how it would be cool to play in the city. I think it's exciting that it will happen. Hopefully it brings excitement to the Sky and we get more fans."
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