- The Washington Times - Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Two weeks after one of the WNBA’s charter members folded, the league rewarded one of its strongest markets.

The league officially announced yesterday that the 2007 WNBA All-Star Game on July 15 will be at Verizon Center.

It will mark the second time the District has played host to the game. In 2002, the building, then-named MCI Center, drew an All-Star Game record 19,487 fans. Only New York City, which has held the league’s midseason event three times, had played host to multiple All-Star Games.

“We see it as a great market with great ownership,” WNBA president Donna Orender said. “It’s a team [Mystics] on the rise. Yeah, we thought it would be great. Washington, D.C., is just a great city, and we’re very proud of coming back.”

By awarding the District the game, the WNBA guarantees itself a large crowd for the nationally televised game and possibly a boost in interest. Presale tickets for the game were released to the general public yesterday and will be available until Jan. 21.

“It’s a great honor,” Mystics president Sheila Johnson said. “I’m going to call myself the hostess of the WNBA All-Star Game,” Mystics president Sheila Johnson.

There will be new schedule for this year’s All-Star Game. The skills competition and the 3-point shootout will take place before the 3:30 p.m. tipoff instead of the day before.

“I think [the WNBA] does an awesome job of publicizing [the All-Star Game],” said Detroit Shock guard Katie Smith, a six-time All-Star. “You get everybody in one place at one time, and it is exciting. The basketball is great. You get to interact with the players. It’s kind of a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. [The fans] are able to talk to us. They’re able to touch us, get autographs. We’re there for their time. The last time it was here in D.C. it was phenomenal.”

New D.C. Mayor Adrian Fenty, who was at the press conference, offered some advice for fans.

“My staff was asking me, ‘Do I need any talking points?’ And I said, ‘I don’t think so. All I want to do is tell everyone [to] visit the District of Columbia [and] spend money,’ ” Fenty said.

The Charlotte Sting folded Jan. 3, leaving the WNBA with 13 teams, seven in the Western Conference and six in the Eastern Conference.

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