ATLANTA — No one can blame Atlanta Dream fans for being skeptical about renewing their season tickets — not during a national recession and not after just four wins in the team’s first WNBA season.
So Dream president Bill Bolen wasn’t surprised when the second-year franchise struggled to convince fans to renew their season tickets during the offseason.
"When it came down to renew and come back, there were some fans skeptical and taking a wait-and-see attitude," he said.
Then a crowd of 4,980 watched Atlanta beat the Connecticut Sun 76-73 in the Dream’s lone preseason game last week.
Bolen said apparently they liked what they saw. The victory convinced some season-ticket holders that Atlanta would definitely win more than four games with its revamped roster — which includes six-time All-Star Chamique Holdsclaw. Bolen said some season-ticket holders renewed their tickets during the game.
"Some of the them said, ‘OK, I believe now,"’ Bolen recalled. "I don’t want to miss this. If you saw the talent we’ve gotten, you quickly realize this won’t be another four-win season. I think once we start to really win, people are going to come out in droves."
Last year, Atlanta (4-30) set league records losing its fist 17 games and for most losses in a season. The Dream finished a woeful 1-16 at home.
Bolen said there has been a decrease in season ticket holders compared to last season, but the Dream has seen an increase in group packages sold.
He said ticket prices were adjusted slightly — with the lowest going for $10 — to still keep the games affordable to fans.
Bolen wouldn’t say how much the franchise lost in its dismal first season, but did say that owner J. Ronald Terwilliger didn’t expect to gain much financially as an expansion club last year. Bolen added that the franchise is "feeling good heading into the future."
He said winning more games can certainly help lead to more multiyear, seven-figure partnership deals with major companies who can place their names on jerseys.
"It’s about getting people into the arena," he said. "Once they see a game, we got to have them hooked. Winning matters."
The Dream’s overhauled roster includes several proven veterans.
The team signed Holdsclaw, Michelle Snow, Sancho Lyttle, Nikki Teasley and Coco Miller during the offseason.
With the first pick of this year’s draft, the Dream chose All-American Angel McCoughtry, who led Louisville to the national title game.
General manager and coach Marynell Meadors said now is the time to give fans a better reason to attend games.
"It’s up to us to start winning more," she said. "That’s what is going to attract more fans. With this year’s squad, I believe we can make that possible."
Sun coach Mike Thibault said the Dream could probably have the same type of turnaround as the Detroit Shock, who lost 13 consecutive games in 2002 — then finished the next season as winners of a WNBA championship.
"It usually takes three to four years for an expansion team to develop into a contender," Thibault said. "But the Dream are ahead of the curve, almost the same way Detroit did it a few years back. They still have a ways to go, but the talent is there now."