The wheels of change are already in motion at Mohegan Sun Resort and Casino, the brand-new tournament home of the brand-new women's American Athletic Conference.
Mitchell Etess, the Mohegan Sun CEO, has been trying for years to lure the then-Big East women's tournament from Hartford's XL Center. In March 2014, it becomes a reality. But why relocate? Like most things, it comes down to money. The XL Center became too costly a venue -- from overhead to the costs associated with staging the tourney -- and Mohegan Sun made more economic sense.
“We chose to keep ticket package price for years ($99),” Danielle Donehew, the associated commissioner of women’s basketball of the Big East (and now the AAC), told the Hartford Courant last week. “That created a set revenue stream for the Big East Conference.
“We averaged less than 8,000 fans per session last season. In the past that number was higher and the cost of operating [at the XL Center] was lower. …
“From a conference perspective, the idea is to represent the goals and aspirations of the membership as a whole,” Donehew continued.
Joe Fernandez, the South Florida women's coach, certainly agrees.
(Moving has been something the coaches have wanted for a long time,” Fernandez said via the Courant. “For the last four years we have asked the athletic directors to consider the Mohegan Sun.
“Look, Hartford treated the Big East very, very well over the last nine years. But we thought it was in our best interest as a league [to move]. There were multiple places we could have considered, but it would have been very difficult to ignore that Connecticut possesses an incredible amount of women’s basketball fans.
“Mohegan was the best option for us now. It’s going to be great. It’s the home of a WNBA team. It’s a destination that fans want to visit and enjoy. It was a logical move.”
In case you're keeping score, it's roughly 27 miles from Storrs to Hartford, and 29 miles from Storrs to Mohegan Sun.