Upset, floored, sad and angry: San Antonio Stars season ticket-holders, fans speak out on team relocation

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Since the news broke last Thursday that the San Antonio Stars were being sold and relocating, fans of the team, and of the league in general, have taken to social media to voice their concerns about sale of the franchise.

Die-hard Stars fans have been the most vocal, expressing a myriad of emotions from sadness to outright anger that Spurs Sports and Entertainment (SS&E), the parent company of the Stars, have been in negotiations to sell the franchise. If the team relocates to Las Vegas, as rumored, it will be the third city for the Stars. The franchise started out in Salt Lake City as the Utah Starzz in 1997. In December 2002, the league announced that the Starzz would be moving to San Antonio.

Some fans backed the Stars even before the team played its first game at AT&T Center in 2003. They shelled out money for season-ticket deposits to help secure the team for SS&E. The organization needed 6,000 season-ticket deposits in order to obtain the Stars.

During the team’s first four years in San Antonio, the Stars experienced losing seasons before earning a 20-14 record in 2007 under former head coach Dan Hughes. The following season the Stars had their best year, earning a trip to the WNBA Finals before losing in a sweep to the Detroit Shock.

Hughes left the team after the 2016 season, capping a four-year stretch of losing seasons. The team ended 2017 with an 8-26 record, at the bottom of the league under first-year head coach and former Stars player Vickie Johnson.

Four fans took some time over the weekend to share their opinions with about the relocation of the team. Their responses to questions about the team are below.

  • Suzanne Kenoyer – A “fan of the WNBA since the beginning of the league and a season ticket-holder since the Stars came to San Antonio.”
  • Jackie Freeman – A Stars fan “since day one. Went to the unveiling of the San Antonio Silver Stars uniform and new name.” She was introduced to the league when she attended a Houston Comets game soon after Sheryl Swoopes returned after giving birth. “I still have my program and poster. It was the best.”
  • Jeanne Chew – A “WNBA fan since its inception and a 15-year season ticket-holder for the Stars.”
  • Cathleen Coyle – A “WNBA fan since the league started. Living in San Antonio, I rooted for the Comets, but being from Jersey, I was a huge Liberty fan. They had T-Spoon! I have been a Stars fan since I knew they were relocating here from Utah. I was one of a group of folks dropping the $50.00 deposit to get the team here.”

Are you surprised that the team is moving? Why or why not?

Suzanne: “Somewhat surprised because nothing was rumored, but as I look back – Hughes stepping down, only a one-year contract for [Vickie Johnson], not being billed for our season ticket renewals – maybe I shouldn’t be surprised. It’s no secret that SS&E has done little to attract or retain new season ticket-holders over the years, and we’ve often felt that the team was an afterthought. Knowing that SS&E acquired a professional soccer team meant there was less money to go around. I understand that it’s a business decision for them – the team never made money – but it’s still a knife to the heart for all the fans.”

Jackie: “I was floored. I honestly didn’t see this coming. I had no idea we were being put up for sale because I had not heard any rumors among our fellow STH friends at the games, nor had I seen anything on the internet. Of course, we have always been the last to know anything about the Stars from the front office.”

“I’m just shocked. But there should have been signs that I look back on over the past year:

  • Why just a one-year contract for Coach VJ? That puzzled me and my husband, plus our fellow STH. Now it makes sense, because we were going to be one and done this year.
  • No pink court. We were the only WNBA team with a pink court for Breast Cancer Awareness. It was awesome! I was invited to help paint a portion of that court, got to shoot some baskets on that court with fellow survivors and sometimes one or two players, too. But no pink court this year. I asked and never got an answer.
  • We never got billed in September on our credit card for the season ticket renewal. We waited, we emailed and asked and the response was a changed date in billing.
  • There was even less coverage than the usual less coverage this year in the local newspaper and TV. There used to be billboards along major roadways with schedules of the next three to four home games back in the day.
  • Theme nights, back in the day (up until a few years ago) we had theme nights. We love San Antonio night, Recycle Night, Military Night, First Responders, Hoops and Hounds, Father Daughter Night, Fill the School Bus for Back to School, SA Food Bank night (bring in some canned goods and get a voucher for a ticket Breast Cancer Awareness (used to be a huge event, not this year or last year). We even had a Hawaiian themed night. But these stopped. Everything this year was tossed together last minute?”

Jeanne: “I am surprised that the team is moving because it seemed though we supported them through several tough seasons the future was looking bright. No indication was given to STH that the team was leaving. The reps pushed hard for ticket renewal and I know of many new season ticket-holders that came on board for the 2018 season.”

Cathleen: “I am more upset than surprised. For the first 10 years, I really felt Spurs Sports & Entertainment were behind the Stars. Hell, our first COO was Clarissa Davis – played an undefeated season for UT – A local hero. Slowly and methodically, we started losing the little perks. Free t-shirts, fan rewards etc. I think we knew it was coming, we just didn’t want to admit it. The Spurs organization finally showed their true colors and loyalty. Unfortunately, our local news never really covered the Stars. Hell, high school football got more coverage.”

What does the loss of the team in San Antonio mean to you?

Suzanne: “We (there are four of us who have had season tickets by each other since the beginning) also support UTSA women’s basketball, so we will still support the sport. But not having the professional team here is a blow. Before the Stars came here, we tried to go to some of Houston’s games, but that’s not an option now. Dallas is much further to travel to, so I doubt we will make many of those games. It’s disappointing that the girls’ basketball teams that attended the professional games won’t have that option any more, either. It seems like boys have plenty of athletic role models, but girls? No so much.”

Jackie: “Well, it was something my husband and I enjoyed going to together and along with our friends. We made so many new friends. We both love sports and this was something we really loved to go watch Live. Didn’t like the losing seasons, those were painful, but we stuck it out. This team also presented a positive role model for our young women in sports in and around [San Antonio]. They inspired young women to make a goal and go for it. Now that is gone. I’m going to miss not having something to look forward to this next WNBA season, going to miss it a lot!”

Jeanne: “The loss of the team leaves me sad and angry. The young ladies on the team were such good role models for the young girls and boys in the community and they gave their time and energy to make the community a better place. The price for tickets to the games was affordable to most families. I will miss the friendships formed with the players and not being able to see other STH that I became acquainted with through the fifteen seasons.”

Cathleen: “The loss means everything to me. This was more than a basketball team. This was a group of talented athletes that gave hope to young girls that they could dream big, be anything. It was a summer full of great basketball with athletes that cared about the community. This franchise did Ruth Riley and Vickie Johnson wrong. We were a young team, just starting to gel. They never gave us a chance.”

“On another note, I was part of a group called Stars Section Leaders. This was a group that would ‘adopt’ a player and highlight them in the section they sat with. Out of our own pocket we would purchase banners – at $75.00 a pop, that would have the players section name. For example – “Hamby’s Hoopsters.” We would purchase rally towels, draw-string bags, make posters, had out balloons, all on our personal dime! SS&E never gave us a nod, but we did it for the team and the fans. I will really miss doing that. The players loved it.”

Do you have any thoughts on the performance of the team in the past few seasons with losing records, change in coaching, etc.?

Suzanne: “I love Coach Hughes as a person, but some of the trades he made were baffling. We also questioned why he continued to start players who weren’t performing. But our losing seasons have also had a lot to do with injuries – they killed us.”

Jackie: “We were a revolving door for the first few years with coaches. I loved Coach Hughes and his wife, but sometimes his coaching decisions and trading decisions (if they truly were his) made my head spin. I never understood why some players that showed potential didn’t get the playing time they deserved…. I got frustrated that we were constantly losing, repeatedly. There had to be a reason, but what was it? The coach? The team chemistry? What? But loyalty factors in this for me and win or lose, we were there to cheer on our team. If you truly are a fan, I think, you stay for the good, the bad and the ugly. And Lord knows our team the last few years was the poster child for the WNBA in injuries. That killed us for at least the last three seasons. It was like we never could catch a break.”

Jeanne: “Though the Stars struggled to achieve winning seasons many times, I was a true fan who supported them whether they won or lost. Those of us who were loyal fans celebrated the wins and mourned the losses. Would I have like to have seen the Stars win a championship? Of course, but I supported these young ladies who played with so much heart and left in on the court every game. There were coaches that I liked and some that I felt were not a good fit. In the end I was elated that Vicki Johnson was given the chance to be the head coach and even though it was a tough season, toward the end she had the team moving in the right direction. Everyone was looking forward to next season and the core of young players the team had to build on.”

Cathleen: “Did we underperform in the last year or so, probably. This season was marred by injuries before it started, thanks to overseas play. We had a No. 1 pick that really didn’t want to be here, but warmed up to situation. I love Dan Hughes, but I think we got a little stale. STH were beyond excited they hired VJ. I knew, and the fans knew, VJ would bring a new passion, but that takes time and by the end of the season – the team was playing great. It was finally starting to click and the fans had really high hopes for next season, but the organization bailed on the team and on their fans.

Bottom line, SS&E used us as a seat filler.”

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  • Been a STH for 10 years. Win, lose, or draw, this is my team. Their motto, “Stars Heart” was so true—the ladies played every game with all their heart and we loved them for it. As for SS&E,,,I only have one question, ” Is this what Spurs Family means?”

  • Thanks for the article. I applaud my other STHs. They are right. Didn’t understand why they fired a guy who knew women’s basketball and hired the guy who didn’t. That should have been a sign. They devoted little marketing dollars to the time. Didn’t do package deals with sponsors. BTW I put my dollars down to get the team here and I have stayed a loyal season ticket holder every sense. I fell used by SS&E. Greed over family.

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