September 07, 2014

PHOENIX (AP) The WNBA is in good shape, financially and competitively, league president Laurel Richie said Sunday.

She also said she believed there would not be ownership issues in the offseason as there were a year ago when Los Angeles was left in limbo just a couple of months after the end of the 2013 season.

''But I think our ownership group has seen the numbers, they've been in arena, they've been to games, they know that our fan base is growing, that the level of talent is increasing,'' Richie said before Game 1 of the WNBA Finals between Phoenix and Chicago. ''Do I expect any surprises of that nature this year? No, I don't.''

Six teams should end up in the black this season, the same number as last season, and ownership groups are stable, Richie said.

Richie said San Antonio, Minnesota, Connecticut, Indiana, Phoenix and Seattle all turned a profit or broke even in 2013. She declined to say if the same six would do so in 2014, saying final numbers were not yet available, but that she believed six would be in the black this season.

Richie also addressed the fact that Game 3 and 4, if necessary, would be played in the University of Illinois-Chicago's arena, which holds 9,500 people, rather than the Allstate Arena in suburban Rosemont, where they have played all season.

''I think the fans in Chicago are going to find the Sky,'' Richie said. ''I think their first trip to the Finals, I think we are on track to have a record crowd in Chicago.''

Richie noted that attendance was up and television ratings have been good.

''I couldn't be more excited, I think we have our veterans showing up, we have fresh young talent coming in and two coaches who are making their first appearance in the WNBA Finals so we are very excited,'' Richie said.

She added, ''This is really our fans responding to the state of the game in the WNBA today.''

She said the success of Phoenix's Brittney Griner, Chicago's Elena Delle Donne and Tulsa's Skylar Diggins - the first three players taken in the 2013 draft - was a milestone this season.

''I think we have seen the same attention from Brittney and from Elena, to not only to arrive as perhaps the most heralded rookie class in WNBA history but with one season under their belt, each one of them did incredible work in the offseason to take incredible games and take them up to the level necessary to be competitive in the WNBA,'' Richie said.

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