The Liberty announced on Thursday that they would play their home games next season at Barclays Center, the Brooklyn arena that also houses the N.B.A.’s Nets. The arena was recently purchased by Joe Tsai, the teams’ primary owner.
The announcement came a day after the W.N.B.A. team made another big change. On Wednesday, the team said it would not renew the contract of its head coach, Katie Smith, 45, who was elevated to the position in 2018 after serving as an assistant and associate head coach since 2014. The team was 10-24 this year, after a 7-27 record in her first season as head coach.
Barclays will be a huge upgrade for the Liberty. The team played the past two seasons at the Westchester County Center, where capacity was around 2,000.
The move to Westchester came as the team’s former owner, James L. Dolan, was looking to sell the team and save money. Playing at Madison Square Garden — the Liberty’s home for most of the time since the franchise was formed in 1997 — cost about 20 times more than playing in White Plains, N.Y.
“With many of our fans based in the five boroughs, moving to Barclays Center will make the Liberty more centrally located, allowing us to bring back the original fan base and attract new supporters,” said David Levy, chief executive of the Nets and Barclays Center, as well as president of J Tsai Sports. “The venue change, along with the first pick in the 2020 W.N.B.A. draft, has positioned the team for an exciting future.”
The Liberty also had a high pick in the 2019 draft and selected Asia Durr, who was injured for half of the season, at No. 2 over all.
Levy said the ownership group looked at a few other venues, but it was apparent Barclays was the right place. “We wouldn’t have done this if we didn’t think it would be profitable,” he said.
Barclays will open the lower bowl for most games, creating a capacity of more than 8,000, with the option to expand. The Liberty played one regular-season game against Seattle in Barclays this year, and it drew 7,715 fans.
Keia Clarke, the Liberty’s chief operating officer, said the women’s team would share many assets with the Nets. The staff will have offices at the Nets’ training facility.
“We’ve been a team in flux,” she said. “To have a home and to finally plant roots feels really good.”
One thing that won’t change is the team’s name.
“We thought about it, but that’s a storied franchise and it was one of the original teams, one of the most well-known W.N.B.A. teams.” Levy said. “Why would you change that name? A lot of fans love that brand name.”
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