Caitlin Clark effect already being felt in Indy

The Caitlin Clark effect officially arrived in Indianapolis on Monday night.

Within an hour of the Indiana Fever’s selection of Clark as the first pick in this year’s WNBA Draft, lines wrapped throughout the southern part of the Gainbridge Fieldhouse concourse as fans waited their turn to purchase Clark-related merchandise ranging from shirts to hats to jerseys. Lines to the team store snaked out of the door and came with a 20-minute wait.

The team’s draft party at the fieldhouse drew an estimated 6,000 fans, many of whom stuck around after watching the draft on the arena’s video scoreboard to purchase items from the first stock of memorabilia.

Kasie Mumford, a Middletown resident, attended the watch party with her husband Zane and their children — each donning a shirt sold at the fieldhouse celebrating Clark’s selection.

She said she admires that Clark’s drive on the court and passion for basketball has had a trickle-down effect on her daughter, who was one of hundreds to purchase Clark’s first authentic-style No. 22 jersey on the concourse.

Clark’s addition “adds something special” to the Fever franchise, Mumford said.

“We as a family really thought of this as an experience, and they sold this shirt solely for this experience,” she said. “Ten years from now, when my daughter outgrows it and it goes to her little sister, we can look back and remember how we were here when she was drafted. This is probably a once-in-a-lifetime sort of experience.”

Between the online WNBA and Pacers stores, more than two dozen Clark-inspired pieces of merchandise were for sale, including jerseys, hooded sweatshirts, jersey T-shirts, hats and an assortment of shirts bearing Clark’s likeness or name. On the WNBA website, the adult navy blue Nike Explorer jersey, priced at $99.99, was close to selling out shortly before midnight.

Representatives for the Indiana Fever did not have an estimate on how much Clark merchandise was sold Monday night.

The rollout of the Fever’s newest franchise player has already made an impact on season-ticket sales and renewals, too, something that started before Clark could even be included in the team’s official marketing.

Mumford said she and her family already have some games on their calendar, and she’s excited to see the impact Clark’s personality and play bring to the team, and to the league as a whole.

“It definitely is creating a fandom of the franchise,” she said. “Caitlin Clark isn’t just a first-round pick that’s a temporary great thing for women’s basketball; she has really struck something in everybody to really start looking at women’s sports.”

Todd Taylor, president and chief commercial officer for Pacers Sports & Entertainment, which owns the Fever, said ticket demand for the Fever “has never been higher” and corporate sponsorships are also near historic levels.

“Season ticket sales are going to be at an all-time high and they’ll probably rival when the team started back in 1999,” he said. “Certainly, the demand has never been higher, so we’re taking full advantage.”

He said with Clark now officially part of the franchise, she can be included in the team’s marketing materials — something that had to be avoided, at least in direct ways, in the run-up to the draft.

Taylor said single-game tickets, which went on sale last week, are being marketed earlier this year than in the past. He said additional tickets on the mezzanine level will soon be marketed as part of multi-game packages, similar to what’s offered during the Pacers season.

On Ticketmaster, the get-in price for the team’s May 16 regular-season home opener against the New York Liberty start at $45, with some resale court-side seats selling for $2,300 apiece.

While Taylor and PSE have declined to share the financials or other specific details pertaining to ticket and suite sales, he said several games will likely be sold out during the season, based on preliminary data.

That’s good news for a franchise that ranked next to last among WNBA teams in attendance last year at 4,067 per game.

“It’s not just the Fever that’s benefiting, but really the WNBA as a whole,” Taylor said. “The foundation is here … it just feels different this time and it feels different within the industry, but I think it’s much more sustainable. I think it’s going to be here to stay.”

By Mickey Shuey, Indianapolis Business Journal