PHOENIX – As “Scorch” descended from the Footprint Center rafters with sparkling fireworks accompanying each hand, the Phoenix Mercury’s mascot gave a glimpse into the show the team will put on as host of the 2024 WNBA All-Star Game.
The Mercury took a 9-0 Phoenix City Council vote that drew major support from Arizona Gov. Katie Hobbs and Phoenix Mayor Kate Gallego to the finish line, being awarded the WNBA showcase Saturday, and celebration was in store Monday.
“We want to make Phoenix the ultimate destination and epicenter of basketball, community, passion and spirit,” Hobbs said Monday during a video presentation. “We can’t wait to welcome fans from all over to the All-Star game and show them everything the Valley has to offer.”
Added Gallego: “Phoenix is no stranger to hosting premier sports and entertainment events, and we have everything you can ask for to make this a memorable experience for fans and the best WNBA All-Star game ever.”
Phoenix hosted the WNBA All-Star game in 2014 and 2000, but the makeup of the city will look drastically different after Phoenix’s hot streak of hosting the biggest sporting events in the country. Part of this development in the Phoenix area is a major driving force on why the Mercury won the bid to host their third WNBA All-Star game.
A second key reason is the city’s proven ability to host marquee events, most recently the Fiesta Bowl in January and Super Bowl 57 in February. Months before the WNBA All-Star game in 2024, Phoenix will host the NCAA men’s Final Four.
“When I was hired three months ago, our goal was for Phoenix to host the 2024 WNBA All-Star Game,” Mercury CEO Josh Bartelstein said. “This isn’t just about the game, it’s about women in sports, the event itself and the local businesses that surround our arena.”
“This is a testament to Mat Ishbia’s commitment to making Phoenix the leading basketball city in the world,” Downtown Phoenix Inc. CEO Devney Majerle added. “We have residents moving here and companies choosing to locate and expand here because of these mega-events.
“There has been tremendous growth in downtown Phoenix since 2014 when we last hosted, more than 7,000 new apartment units have been built and now more than 225 restaurants and bars are nearby.”
Mercury guard Diana Taurasi was part of the 2014 WNBA All-Star Game and echoed the development of the Phoenix area since the organization last hosted the event.
“Ten years ago, after the game, you would just go home,” Taurasi said. “Now there are bars and restaurants everywhere, and you can enjoy the city after the game.”
Taurasi, who has spent her entire 19-year career in a Mercury uniform, is hopeful to represent her team in 2024 in the final year of her contract with retirement looming.
“It would be nice to be a part of it as I have one more year on my contract and I plan to honor that,” Taurasi said. “If I’m here, I will do the skills challenge, the 3-point contest, beer pong, whatever they need me to do.”
Along with the All-Star game, the Mercury announced two commitments to serving the community with a court renovation for Chicanos Por La Causa De Colores Shelter and the establishment of an all-girls basketball league.
The CPLC, a local domestic violence shelter, will have its court renovated in the middle of the apartments to serve mothers and their children. The shelter serves 500-600 members of the community each year.
The Valley of the Sun YMCAs will host the all-girls league with four different locations in the Valley and be free of charge for girls in grades 1-4.
“I am fired up for the girls league,” Bartelstein said. “Reffing, coaching, whatever they let me do I will be there.
“When we say community, there are certain organizations that are kind of checking boxes and that’s not for us, we are going to be creative about how we do things. It is not just writing a check, it’s how you empower young women to really grow and learn the game of basketball.”
Next year’s WNBA All-Star weekend will kick off at Footprint Center with the All-Star Skills Challenge and 3-Point Shootout beginning on July 19, followed by the All-Star game the next day. Even though the game is 368 days away, the work and planning has already begun.
“I think the Mercury organization, the public-private partnership and having a mayor and governor buy-in to these events, is why everything is coming through here,” Bartelstein said. “The work starts now. We already had a meeting this morning and it’s all the small details, there is no silver bullet to making it the best All-Star game ever.
“From the time guests arrive to a gift basket in their hotel room or the entertainment we have in Phoenix, everything will be intentional and mapped out to make sure no detail goes overlooked. And we are pretty good at doing that.”