Big crowd expected as Atlanta Dream host Caitlin Clark, Fever at State Farm Arena

Indiana Fever's Caitlin Clark (22) goes to the basket against Atlanta Dream's Nia Coffey (12) and Aerial Powers (23) during the second half of a WNBA preseason basketball game Thursday, May 9, 2024, in Indianapolis. (AP Photo/Darron Cummings)

Credit: AP

Credit: AP

Indiana Fever's Caitlin Clark (22) goes to the basket against Atlanta Dream's Nia Coffey (12) and Aerial Powers (23) during the second half of a WNBA preseason basketball game Thursday, May 9, 2024, in Indianapolis. (AP Photo/Darron Cummings)

The WNBA is taking over State Farm Arena on Friday as the Dream and the Indiana Fever are set for a matchup scheduled for 7:30 p.m.

State Farm Arena, the home of the Hawks, is not the Dream’s usual home venue. The team has played its seven home games at Gateway Center Arena in College Park, but high ticket demand for the Dream-Fever game, which features No. 1 overall draft pick Caitlin Clark of Indiana, necessitated a move to the larger venue.

Gateway Center Arena’s capacity is listed at 3,500 while State Farm Arena has a capacity of about 17,000.

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It’s the first time since 2019 that State Farm Arena has hosted a WNBA game. The Dream moved to Gateway Center Arena in 2020.

“It’s a really exciting time for women’s basketball, specifically in Atlanta,” Dream President and Chief Operating Officer Morgan Shaw Parker said. “Little did we know that this draft class is as strong as it is but it’s really exciting to see it taking a strong hold in Atlanta. We’ve got people coming out of the woodwork, young and old from near and far, from every area in the southeast and from greater Atlanta to come in for this game. Our goal with opening up State Farm was to allow more fans to see the Dream.”

Atlanta Dream forward Cheyenne Parker-Tyus (32) gets fired up with a teammate before the start of WNBA game against Washington Mystics at the Gateway Center Arena on June 11, 2024, in Atlanta. (Hyosub Shin / AJC)


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Shaw Parker was on-hand while the Dream’s court was being installed at State Farm Arena.

“It is never easy to move a game venue in the middle of the season,” Shaw Parker said. “Especially when we were only solidified in this opportunity six weeks before the game. The Hawks and the State Farm (Arena) team are really partnering with us to help amplify this on a bigger scale.”

Though Gateway Center Arena has a listed capacity of 3,500, Dream games have drawn more fans than that.

“We know Gateway can pack just over 4,000 people,” Shaw Parker said. “Obviously that was unintentional, but it showed us that Gateway could hold that. This is nearly 20,000. A sellout is considered at least 17,099. We’re pacing right now to sell this out. I’m anticipating an announcement on Friday.”

Clark gained widespread attention during her college career at Iowa, where she broke the all-time NCAA basketball scoring record. Clark’s presence contributes to the amplified ticket sales, but Shaw Parker doesn’t chalk it up to one player.

“Caitlin Clark is a generational talent,” Shaw Parker said. “What we’re seeing in this entire draft class is a completely different level coming out of college. What I think is always interesting with every rookie class is realizing how good professional women’s basketball already is. There is always going to be controversy. There are always gonna be tough plays. There are always going to be people who are rivals against others.

“The beauty of this is, our players are all doing their best to handle it with grace while also focusing on what they’re doing on the court. Yes, the Caitlin Clark effect is real. We can’t not include the rest of this entire draft class. It would be silly of us to say that Caitlin is the only reason. The league in particular would never have been able to catch this wave this year had it not been on an exponential growth trajectory over the last five years.”

The Fever enters Friday’s contest with a 6-10 record coming off an 88-81 win over Washington on Wednesday. Aliyah Boston and Kelsey Mitchell led the team in scoring with 22 points each while Clark had a double-double of 18 points and 12 rebounds.

“We’re going to approach this game like we do any other,” Dream general manager Dan Padover said. “They have a lot of talented players with Caitlin, Aliyah and NaLyssa (Smith) being their last three draft picks. Obviously Kelsey Mitchell is a phenomenal scorer. They like to get out and run. We’re gonna have to defend them in the open court.”

The Fever ranks fifth in the league in blocks per game (4.7) and has made 126 3-pointers. Forty of the made 3-pointers are from Clark.

The Dream (6-7) return to Atlanta after a 68-55 loss to Minnesota on Wednesday. Rhyne Howard left the game in the third quarter with a lower leg injury and did not return. Howard appeared to suffer an ankle sprain and was helped off the court. Dream coach Tanisha Wright did not provide an update or status on Howard after the game.