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Hot-starting Sky serious about winning, growing in WNBA

IndianFever v Chicago Sky

Indiana Fever v Chicago Sky

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Updated: July 23, 2012 7:59AM

On the 40th anniversary of the passage of Title IX, the Chicago Sky is in the midst of its best start in franchise history.

And the fact that the WNBA is still kicking around is a testament to Title IX’s staying power and why the legislation was passed in the first place.

‘‘From being a college athlete to coaching professionally, I know that Title IX helped me become the person I am today,’’ Sky general manager and coach Pokey Chatman said Wednesday at a ceremony at the Thompson Center. ‘‘We still have a lot of work to do.’’

So do the WNBA and Sky.

League president Laurel Richie said the WNBA is split between independently owned teams — the Sky, the Atlanta Dream, the Connecticut Sun, the Los Angeles Sparks, the Seattle Storm and the Tulsa Shock — and those affiliated with an NBA owner in their respective cities: the Washington Mystics, the Phoenix Mercury, the New York Liberty, the Minnesota Lynx, the San Antonio Silver Stars and the Indiana Fever.

Richie wouldn’t say specifically whether the league is financially healthy or if expansion is imminent. But numbers for the Sky at least indicate there’s interest.

Sky president and CEO Adam Fox said he’s projecting ticket sales to be ahead of 2011 levels. That may be partly because of Chatman acquiring star forward Swin Cash and center Ruth Riley, a Notre Dame alum, in the offseason. It also has been a plus that the Sky moved out of the UIC Pavilion and into Allstate Arena in Rosemont in 2010.

‘‘A lot of our business is groups, and that’s where the most significant increases occurred last year, and we see them occurring there this year,’’ Fox said. ‘‘We’re very stable, and the best thing you can have is a growing attendance rate and an owner committed to making this work, which we have.’’

Some teams have sponsorship deals with a company logo on their uniforms. Others, like the Sky, do not. But that’s something owner and chairman Michael Alter is looking into to boost revenue.

‘‘We’re not doing as well as I’d like [financially], but I think in terms of the league, only a few teams are profitable,’’ Alter said. ‘‘We have to do more in terms of sponsorship, and we need a jersey sponsor.’’

The Sky (7-2) is hoping to expand on its hot start when it travels to Minnesota to face the defending WNBA champion Lynx (10-1) on Saturday (11:30 a.m., ESPN).

The team took a hit last Saturday in a loss at Indiana, when guard Epiphanny Prince fractured her right foot, requiring surgery two days later. She will miss six to eight weeks.

In Prince’s stead, Chatman may play Tamera Young, who has been practicing with the starters. Chatman used Young against the Fever after Prince was hurt.

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