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Aces’ attendance soaring after winning WNBA title

On June 11, one day after the Golden Knights defeated the Florida Panthers to take a 3-1 lead in the Stanley Cup Final, the Aces hosted the Chicago Sky.

It’d be easy to assume that with one of Las Vegas’ professional sports franchises just one game away from clinching a championship, the others might fall into the background a bit.

Instead, 9,786 fans poured into Michelob Ultra Arena to watch A’ja Wilson score 21 points to lead the Aces to a 93-80 win.

“I think the city is feeling pretty good right now, and I’m glad we can be a part of that to bring families and bring people together,” she said after the game. “It’s just a lot of fun when we’re constantly having a lot of noise, because the crowd definitely helps us out a lot.”

The Aces are averaging 8,707.71 fans per game this season, ranking third in the WNBA entering Tuesday’s games behind only the Phoenix Mercury (9,507.20) and the Seattle Storm (9,019.33), according to the WNBA statistics website Across the Timeline.

That is almost double from last season, when the Aces averaged 4,363.72 fans over their first seven home games.

“I will always say we have some of the best fans in the league,” Wilson said. “They’re constantly supporting us, through and through.”

The Aces have already made franchise attendance history this season. Their home opener May 27 against Los Angeles, which featured the WNBA championship banner and ring ceremony, brought in 10,191 fans, the most for a regular-season home game since the franchise relocated to Las Vegas.

Even among playoff games, only Game 2 of the 2022 WNBA Finals had a higher attendance, by 20 fans.

The Aces have consistently drawn well at home this season. Their lowest attendance was 7,970 fans against Minnesota on May 28, one day after the banner ceremony. Still, that number would have been their third-highest attendance for the 2022 regular season.

“We play an exciting brand of basketball,” Aces coach Becky Hammon said Saturday, after 8,310 fans watched her team beat the Indiana Fever 101-88. “So the more fans in the building. the better for the whole team.”

Competing with the Storm and Mercury is a big step for the Aces. Phoenix was one of the WNBA’s eight founding teams, and Seattle came into existence shortly after the league was established. The two franchises have a combined seven WNBA championships and long-established fan bases.

Seattle led the league in attendance in 2022, while Phoenix ranked No. 1 during 2021.

The Mercury and Storm’s stay at the No. 1 spot for attendance isn’t guaranteed. Phoenix and Seattle are two of the worst teams in the league this season. Additionally, they have benefited by largely attended games because of Brittney Griner’s return in Phoenix and Sue Bird’s jersey retirement ceremony in Seattle.

Both teams play in larger capacity stadiums. The Mercury share the 18,422-seat Footprint Center with the NBA’s Phoenix Suns. The Storm play at Climate Pledge Arena, which can hold 18,300 fans and doubles as the home of the NHL’s Seattle Kraken. Phoenix’s average attendance only filled 51.60 percent of their available seats entering Tuesday, while Seattle was slightly behind at 49.29 percent.

In comparison, the Aces’ average attendance fills 85.37 percent of Michelob Ultra Arena, ranking third among WNBA teams. They trail only the Washington Mystics (91.70 percent) and the Atlanta Dream (86.13 percent), who play in stadiums with capacities less than 4,200.

Contact reporter Andy Yamashita at ayamashita@reviewjournal.com. Follow @ANYamashita on Twitter.

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