The Washington Times - April 9, 2011, 05:15PM

The Washington Mystics will begin their 14th season on Saturday, June 4 on the road against the Connecticut Sun. Washington’s home opener at Verizon Center is Saturday, June 11, at 7pm against the Chicago Sky.

The team that takes the court this season will look just little bit different than in years past – the Mystics will be sporting new uniforms that will continue the Monumental Sports theme of Red, White and Blue.

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The team jersey will also carry the logo of the team’s new sponsor, Inova Health System. The partnership is designed to promote positive community initiatives for both the Mystics and Inova Health System, and will kick off with an event at the anti-obesity summit at George Mason University on April 29.

“Inova’s teaming up with the Washington Mystics is a natural outgrowth of shared commitments to preventative care, chronic disease management and healthy lifestyle behaviors,” said Mark Stauder, president and COO of Inova Health System.

“Together, we will make better use of our resources to transform our community’s health, empowering individuals through excellence in patient care, education and research.”

The partnership will also include Inova Health System’s designation as the presenting partner of the Washington Mystics and Wizards Youth Basketball Camps.

“The shared vision of both Inova and the Mystics is key to this partnership as both organizations are focused on improving the communities in which we work, live and play,” said Mystics Chief Operating Officer Greg Bibb.

The trend toward WNBA teams securing sponsorships was the brainchild of former WNBA president Donna Orender, who resigned in December. At present, there are five WNBA teams who have sponsorship deals:

Washington Mystics – Inova Health Systems

Phoenix Mercury – Lifelock

Los Angeles Sparks – Farmers Insurance

Seattle Storm – Bing

New York Liberty – Foxwood Resort Casino

The Mercury was the first team to partner with a corporate sponsor in 2009 and at the time, Orender saw the move as positioning the league in a positive direction.

“I think the league and all our owners embrace innovation. We’re constantly looking at ways to showcase the value we bring to our partners. And when the Mercury and LifeLock connected, it rang bells,” Orender said when the deal was made.

It’s fair to assume that the WNBA’s other seven teams - the Atlanta Dream, Minnesota Linx, Connecticut Sun, Chicago Sky, San Antonio Silver Stars, Indiana Fever, Tulsa Shock – are looking for the same kind of financial stability a corporate partnership would bring.

Since the league’s inception in 1996, six teams have folded - the Charlotte Sting, Cleveland Rockers, Houston Comets, Miami Sol, Portland Fire, and Sacramento Monarchs. Beyond those six, three relocated – the Detroit Shock became the Tulsa Shock, the Orlando Miracle became the Connecticut Sun, the Utah Starzz became the San Antonio Silver Stars.

Stay tuned to Mystics Watch for further developments on the Mystics and the WNBA.