Four years after playing on the stage at Radio City Music Hall, the New York Liberty are looking forward to the opportunity to take to the court at Arthur Ashe Stadium.
"World-class venues," Liberty president and general manager Carol Blazejowski said Thursday. "We're a team of firsts, we like to set the benchmarks. Let's hope we can be as successful at the Tennis Center as we were at Radio City."
The Liberty Outdoor Classic, in which New York will face the Indiana Fever on July 19, will be the first regular-season basketball game played outside, and the first non-tennis sporting event to be held at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center, home of the U.S. Open.
"The New York Liberty and Madison Square Garden wanted to step out and showcase the unbelievable talent in women's basketball and thought this was a great big, bold way to do that," WNBA president Donna Orender said. "It will be a showcase event for the league this year without a doubt."
The NBA's Phoenix Suns defeated the Milwaukee Bucks in a preseason game on Sept. 24, 1972, at a baseball stadium in San Juan, Puerto Rico. Following the NHL's successful outdoor game this year on New Year's Day in Buffalo, N.Y., the Suns announced they will face the Denver Nuggets in another preseason game at the Indian Wells Tennis Garden in Indian Wells, Calif., on Oct. 11.
Blazejowski said the game was scheduled for a 7:30 p.m. start to avoid the summer sun and heat. If there is rain, the game will be played the next day in Madison Square Garden.
Liberty guard Erin Thorn didn't expect the outdoor conditions to be a problem.
"We all grew up playing outdoors, in the playgrounds, in our backyards. So, I don't think it's going to affect it too much," she said. "Unless there's some big gust, I don't see it affecting the game, and it's going to affect the game both ways. We're both playing in the same circumstances."
The Liberty will bring their basketball court to the Tennis Center and lay it out on the surface at Arthur Ashe Stadium. Blazejowski expects the Liberty, who average about 9,000 fans at Madison Square Garden, to sell out the 23,226-seat Arthur Ashe Stadium.
The Breast Cancer Research Foundation will receive a portion of the proceeds from ticket sales.
"We're always looking for ways to create more exposure, generate more publicity, garner more fans, raise the profile of this team and the league," Blazejowski said. "And with an event of this nature, we think we can do that.
"We'd like to have a full house. It's great basketball, it's outdoors, the Breast Cancer Research Foundation benefits from it. There's so many good things about it."
In 2004, the Liberty played six games at Radio City when they were forced out of Madison Square Garden by the Republican National Convention.
"The experience at Radio City was something that nobody else has done," Thorn said. "For us to be able to do something else that no one else has done, to play under the lights at Arthur Ashe at the Billie Jean King National Tennis Center in July, it doesn't get any better than that."
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