SEATTLE (AP) — For the past three seasons, a piece of the Seattle Storm’s identity was absent even as it remained among the elite teams in the WNBA.
Seattle was missing a permanent home.
The Storm spent the 2020 season playing in a bubble due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and they spent the 2019 and 2021 seasons bouncing between venues in the Puget Sound region while their arena was rebuilt, robbing them of the element that made coming to Seattle one of the more challenging road trips for opponents.
That changes Friday night when the Storm open the WNBA season against Minnesota. They’re back in the heart of the city, making their regular-season debut at Climate Pledge Arena, also the home of the NHL’s Kraken.
“Knowing that the city of Seattle is really so excited to have us be back, be back in Seattle Center and be back in the heart of Seattle playing and know they can’t wait for me to be back out there as well,” Seattle’s Breanna Stewart said.
There’s plenty of story lines that will follow the Storm this season, from the possibility that it will Sue Bird’s final year, to Stewart’s return from a foot injury that caused her to miss the end of last season.
But for the Storm, finding stability is of major importance.
The Storm spent three seasons without a true place to call home while Climate Pledge Arena was under construction. They split the 2019 season between the University of Washington and Angel of the Winds Arena, 30 miles north of Seattle in Everett, Washington.
The 2020 season — when Seattle won its fourth title — was played in the WNBA bubble in Florida due to the pandemic. The pandemic also led to construction delays that left their new home just enough behind schedule that the Storm had to play one more season in Everett.
Seattle’s patience will be rewarded when the Storm step into one of the best buildings in the league.
“This place is first class and from a WNBA perspective, the more that we have facilities that match the play and the product on the floor, the better the business will grow. That’s just kind of how it is,” Bird said. “Sometimes I feel like in the world of business, you have to fake it till you make it. We kind of did that the last couple of years and now we’re very deserving of being in a building like this.”
The last time the Storm played a meaningful WNBA game at their home arena was Game 2 of the 2018 Finals. Seattle beat Washington 75-73 in Game 2 and completed the three-game sweep of the Mystics in Game 3 on the road. Between the regular season and playoffs, the Storm went 18-4 that season at home, and 5-0 in the postseason. That playoff run also included Bird’s famous Game 5 performance against Phoenix in the conference finals when she scored 14 points in the final 5 minutes to lead Seattle to the Finals.
“To be back in the city for the summer, I think fans are excited about it,” coach Noelle Quinn said. “Our players are excited about it, our organization is excited about being back in Climate Pledge.”
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