In their first full year under the ownership of Joe Tsai, the New York Liberty will join the Brooklyn Nets at the arena on Atlantic Avenue.
One of New York City’s most successful basketball teams will play their games in city limits once more.
The WNBA’s New York Liberty announced on Thursday morning that they will play their home games at Barclays Center in Brooklyn on a full-time basis beginning in the 2020 season.
— New York Liberty (@nyliberty) October 17, 2019
The Liberty’s first full-time games at Barclays will coincide with their first full year under the ownership of Joe Tsai, who also serves as the owner of the NBA’s Brooklyn Nets. Tsai cleared the path for the Liberty to play in the arena by acquiring full-time ownership of both the team and the arena, which also houses the Atlantic 10 Basketball Tournament and the NHL’s New York Islanders on a part-time basis.
“The New York Liberty are part of the foundation of the W and have many of the most accomplished players and passionate fans since the inaugural season,” said WNBA Commissioner Cathy Engelbert in a statement issued by the Liberty. “Barclays Center is the perfect venue to host New York’s team and showcase world-class women’s basketball. This move is key to driving the league to the next level.”
Through their tenure, the Liberty have appeared in four WNBA Finals and several legends of the game have adorned the seafoam green. Current notables include 2019 All-Stars Tina Charles and Kia Nurse, as well as 2018’s second overall pick Asia Durr. Adding to the excitement is the fact that the Liberty own the top overall pick in next spring’s WNBA Draft.
“We are committed to the Liberty’s long-term success in New York and relocating the team to Brooklyn will provide the franchise with tremendous opportunity,” Nets and Barclays Center CEO David Levy added in the same statement”. “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. The venue change, along with the first pick in the 2020 WNBA Draft, has positioned the team for an exciting future.”
The Brooklyn permanency ends a bit of a nomadic period for the Liberty. One of three teams left from the WNBA’s inaugural 1997 season, the Liberty played 20 years at Madison Square Garden before the eponymous company put the team up for sale in 2017. That announcement also came with a de facto eviction from MSG, as the Liberty have played the last two seasons at Westchester County Center. The cozy, sub-2,000-seat venue was located 45 minutes away from their prior home in Manhattan and was the smallest venue in the WNBA. On the court, the Liberty’s play has suffered to the tune of a 17-51 record over the past two seasons.
Upon Tsai’s purchase of the team in January, speculation immediately rose about the team returning to the city. The arena would host two games, including an exhibition against the Chinese national team, during the 2019 season. An August regular-season game against the Seattle Storm drew 7,715 fans, which ranked fourth compared to 2019 WNBA attendance averages.
“It’s not a shot at Westchester, but this organization is deserving of playing in an arena in the likes of Madison Square Garden or Barclays,” Charles said after that game. “It’s more than just my personal opinion, It’s what needs to happen.”
Previously, Charles noted “We’ve been up in Westchester the entire time. Me personally, when I think New York City, I don’t think Westchester. It’s extremely important (to play in Brooklyn). I think that’s what will make the difference between this ownership and the last ownership we had: showing value in our fans and getting us back in the city where we can be reachable for our fanbase.”
When asked if Barclays Center would be an ideal venue, Charles said: “That would be the only other ideal place that’s suitable for a professional women’s basketball team.”
The 2020 schedule will be released at a later date. The Liberty are currently searching for a new head coach, having declined to renew the contract of Katie Smith early this week.