New York Liberty CEO sees early dividends from team’s move to Barclays Center

New York Liberty
BROOKYLN, NY – March 1st: During the food pantry ribbon cutting event at PS 12 on March 1st, 2022 in Brooklyn, New York.
Photo by Allison Joseph

As New York Liberty CEO Keia Clarke put it, the organization is in go mode with the upcoming WNBA season right around the corner. 

Part of that push is getting fans back out to Barclays Center for Liberty games when they kick off their second year at the Brooklyn-based arena. The Liberty’s first season in there was a welcomed change from their previous digs at Westchester County Center under their previous owner James Dolan. 

The move to Barclays Center came with major upgrades, but attendance lagged with the team averaging 1,757 last season. New York, along with the rest of the country, had still been coming out of the Pandemic and restrictions and mandates prevented the Liberty from being as accessible to everyone as they would have liked. 

This year they’re hoping to change that.

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“We’re really, really looking forward to this 2022 season,” Clarke told amNewYork during an event in Brooklyn to open a new food pantry in the borough. “The staff is just every single day planning and getting ready for our return.” 

The Liberty made a key offseason addition in signing veteran Stefanie Dolson in February to compliment an already talented lineup that includes Sabrina Ionescu and Betnijah Laney. 

New York also hired Sandy Brondello to lead the team as their new head coach in January. 

Since taking over the team in 2019, Joe and Clara Tsai have made significant investments into the franchise, which included the move from Westchester to Brooklyn that has given them a more stable home. The Liberty have had a bit of a nomadic existence under the latter years of Dolan’s ownership which took them to Prudential Center in Newark, back to MSG and then to Westchester. 

The benefits to playing in Brooklyn have already come both on and off the court, Clark said. 

“The women in the WNBA, in particular the New York Liberty, deserve to play in a building like that,” Clarke said. “(The players) obviously feel the difference. We’re a playoff team again for the first time in five years, so I think it’s already showing that providing them with what they need to be successful actually pays off. Then in terms of the fan base and corporate partners that really want to align with us and be visible at Barclays Center has all been on a positive trend for us. 

“We’re really excited about what this next year will unfold.” 

While the Tsai’s investments into the team have been a bright spot for the organization, it has reportedly gotten them in trouble with the league. On Tuesday a Sports Illustrated report came to light that ownership had been fined $500,000 for chartering flights for its team to travel during the second half of the season, which is prohibited by the CBA. 

The report sent shockwaves around the league for team owners being fined, with much harsher penalties discussed, for treating its players too well.