Attracting 5,000 to 10,000 people from a pool of 2.1 million is the challenge, and yet achieving this goal can be monumentally frustrating because the math looks no harder than 2 plus 2.
This version of “2 +2” is the challenge for three of the four professional sports teams that exist in Tarrant County.
The current status, and respective futures, of the WNBA’s Dallas Wings, the XFL’s Arlington Renegades and Panther City of the National Lacrosse League is stable. Ish.
1. Dallas Wings
The WNBA is a write-off for the NBA, much like the G-League; this means the WNBA is fine, but the status of its 12 teams varies.
The Wings, which previously called Detroit and Tulsa home before relocating to Arlington in 2015, are not necessarily thriving but improving.
The Wings averaged 4,671 fans at home this season, ninth in the league.
On Friday night at the College Park Center in Arlington, the Wings host the Las Vegas Aces in Game 3 of their semifinals series. The Wings won their previous playoff series, a first for the franchise since it moved from Tulsa to Arlington.
In their series game sweep of Atlanta in the first round, both Wings’ home games averaged approximately 5,000 in an arena that seats about 7,000 for those events.
A crowd of 5,000 for an NBA game is Oakland A’s-level horrible; a crowd of 5,000 for a WNBA game is respectable.
“Our business mirrors the growth of the league and women’s sports in general,” Wings president and CEO Gregg Bibb said in a phone interview. “Ticket revenue is up 34 percent. Broadcast viewership is up 21 percent.
“We are still in our first generation of fandom. If you are looking to compare our league to another league it’s MLS. We both started about the same time. And we have the benefit of this rocket fuel that is the growth and acceptance of women’s sports.”
The Wings’ future is likely not going to be in Arlington forever. The building isn’t the problem.
According to people familiar with situation, the Wings are apt to eventually move east towards Dallas; one potential home could be the Dallas Convention Center, which is undergoing a $3 billion, multi-phase re-development.
“Arlington has been a fantastic partner,” said Bibb, who would not specify if the team may eventually try to find a new home. “It’s been a true home court for us. We are not selling every seat, and until that point I don’t think we can really look at other possibilities.”
As the league grows and expands, more teams will want their own facilities rather than rely on sharing it with another team. The Wings aren’t there yet, but that day is coming.
2. Panther City Lacrosse
The team is set to begin its third season on Dec. 1, and this is the final year of its lease agreement with Dickies Arena.
When the team made the playoffs last season, there was a near major problem. Had Panther City won its postseason game on May 6, they would not have had a home for its next game.
According to league officials, there was a schedule conflict at Dickies Arena for the designated playoff date. The team was told it had to find an alternate location. They lost the game so the issue wasn’t a crisis.
“When we came into this our eyes were wide open, and everything that has gone so far has not been a surprise; we understood the challenges ahead of us,” said Bibb, who also serves as the Panther City managing partner; the ownership group owns and operates both the Wings and Panther City.
Last season, Panther City ranked last in attendance in the 15-team league; the team averaged about 2,800 fans in its nine home games. The league average was 7,600.
Those numbers are likely fudged, but it gives you an idea of where Panther City sits relative to the rest of the league.
Dickies is a world-class arena, and currently its scheduled to host more than 50 concerts in 2024. Because Panther City only plays nine regular-season home dates, scheduling conflicts aren’t much of a problem.
The team is simply running into the same obstacles and challenges the other pro sports ventures in Tarrant County not named the Texas Rangers dealt with in the past. There are a lot of people in this area, and enticing them to come to your game is really hard.
3. Arlington Renegades
The re-birth of the XFL in 2022 resulted in a pro football team that plays its home games in Arlington finally celebrating a title.
The Renegades under Bob Stoops won the XFL championship in the spring, and the third iteration of this league sounds like it’s going to get at least one more year.
On Thursday, after a week of speculation, the XFL and USFL formally announced plans to merge. The USFL is owned by Fox Sports. This means one spring football league.
Officials with the Renegades said the team is running “business as usual.”
The specifics of this merger remain are unclear, but it sounds as if franchises that have a facility to call home will be fine; that would mean the Renegades, which play their home games at Choctaw Stadium, are secure for 2024.
The league’s hope is to come close to breaking even, or at least before then it gets some help from TV partners, or maybe the NFL.
The Renegades averaged about 12,000 fans a game last season, which is a tick under the eight-team league average.
Expect the Renegades to play in 2024. After that, who knows?
The respective futures of the Dallas Wings, Panther City Lacrosse and the Arlington Renegades are all stable.