As far as a Plan C goes, Williams Arena is a very good option for a basketball team.
Lynx head coach Cheryl Reeve said as much Thursday in reacting to the news that her basketball team will play the 2017 postseason in Williams Arena on the U of M campus.
On general principle, though, another venue change has Reeve frustrated.
“No, it’s not OK from the standpoint that it sucks we’re in this position,” Reeve said after practice Thursday, before the 17-2 Lynx prepared to fly to Atlanta for a game Friday. “But what we do as women is we’re resilient. Unfortunately, we find ourselves in these situations often.”
The Lynx were already displaced while Target Center renovations are being completed and are playing the 2017 regular season at Xcel Energy Center. The WNBA playoffs, which start in September, conflict with the Wild’s preseason schedule. So the Lynx — who are a virtual lock to make the playoffs again — will be on the move again for the entire postseason as they attempt to earn their fourth WNBA title in the past seven years.
The WNBA’s top two teams automatically receive byes into the best-of-five playoff semifinals. The championship round is also a best-of-five series. The Lynx had to play their first two playoff games at Xcel Energy Center last season because of scheduling conflicts at Target Center.
Reeve said she knew the playoff move to Williams Arena this season was a “strong possibility” and added she feels “fortunate the Twin Cities is able to offer the types of facilities we have.”
Said Reeve: “We know we have a level of commitment from our owner that he cares about us. So I can feel good every night I go to sleep that I know Glen Taylor is advocating for our team. So if we find ourselves in this situation, it probably was a pretty challenging situation that they tried to work through and couldn’t get the resolution we’d hoped for.”
Taylor also owns the Timberwolves and the Star Tribune.
Timberwolves and Lynx President Chris Wright said in a statement that Williams Arena “will provide the home court advantage that our team has come to expect.” Lynx guard Lindsay Whalen — who helped lead the Gophers to the Final Four in 2004 while playing in front of Williams Arena crowds as large as 14,000 fans — was particularly excited about the news.
“You leave your college arena and you pretty much think that’s the last time you’ll play there,” Whalen told reporters Thursday. “For me, it’s pretty special and I’m very fortunate that we have this opportunity and such a great organization that’s able to put this together and get us over there.”
Indeed, Williams Arena might have been an ideal venue for the entire 2017 Lynx season. But the venerable building does not have permanent air conditioning, and cooling it this summer would have been cost-prohibitive. The Lynx said they will pay for temporary air conditioning in Williams Arena during the playoffs.
In St. Paul this season, the Lynx have thrived in the standings and at the box office. Attendance is actually up this year at Xcel Energy Center vs. the same point last season at Target Center, which is expected to reopen in time for the start of the Timberwolves’ season this fall.
The Lynx will be back at the remodeled Target Center in 2018 — and hopefully, in Reeve’s estimation, for many years to come without interruption. Until then, they’ll be making the best of an imperfect situation again.
“Our players are resilient and our fans are resilient. We grew our business after being relocated (to Xcel Energy Center for 2017),” Reeve said. “We’re going to have one hell of a lemonade stand because that’s what we spend most of our time doing — making lemonade out of these lemons.”