Rookie owners of Dream, Beat, go all out

Formerly a partner at Ernst & Young and an executive vice president at a management-consultant firm, Kathy Betty is getting in front of any community group that will listen to her.

Johnson, the owner of the expansion women's soccer team the Beat, and Betty, the owner of the WNBA's Dream, are loving it.

Said Johnson, "It's like there's 1,000 moving parts to keep this thing moving. It's fun. I'm enjoying the heck out of it."

"Every day I get up excited, and every night I go to bed excited," Betty said. "It's just been a thrill."

Both newcomers to sports ownership, they have struck up a friendship and traded ideas about sponsorships and selling tickets. They were introduced to each other last fall by longtime Atlanta public-relations whiz Bob Hope.

"It was like we didn't stop talking," Betty said. "We both are all about women's sports, and so we share the same vision and the same enthusiasm."

For Johnson, 46, and the 54-year-old Betty, the Beat and the Dream are not mere baubles. Johnson refers to the team as a "start-up" and is the chairman of the board of directors for the Beat's league, Women's Professional Soccer. He's involved in the day-to-day operations, handling matters such as ticket sales, players' insurance and housing and, when his turn comes up, janitorial services at the team's Kennesaw headquarters.

Said Johnson, "We always kid that nobody has less than five jobs."

Betty, who bought the team from original owner Ron Terwilliger has met with Falcons owner Arthur Blank, Braves president John Schuerholz and NBA commissioner David Stern, among others, traveled with the team on road trips and made a point to learn the players around the WNBA.

"The way that she said she could help us is through [developing] sponsorships and support," coach and general manager Marynell Meadors said. "She has definitely jumped in for that. I can tell you one thing -- she loves this team and she loves the players. They know they have her support."

On the scoreboard, Betty is the far happier owner. The Dream won their first six games, including a road win over defending champion Phoenix before losing Tuesday. They'll play Chicago on Friday at Philips Arena as the first-place team in the Eastern Conference.

The Beat are 0-5-1 and have scored two goals this season. Further, first overall draft pick Tobin Heath is out for the season with an ankle injury. However, after Saint Louis Athletica folded last week, Johnson went on a shopping spree. With all players on the roster declared free agents, Johnson signed U.S. national-team goalkeeper Hope Solo, possibly the best in the world at her position, along with national-team captain Lori Chalupny and two other Athletica refugees.

Both owners, of course, hope the developments translate into more fans in seats. Johnson's goal is to average about 5,000 fans. Betty is aiming for between 5,000 and 6,000. After the Beat drew 7,248 in their opener, they followed with 3,112 in their second home game. Their third home game at their new stadium on the Kennesaw State campus, is June 19.

Last year, when they improved from 4-30 in 2008 to 18-18, the Dream averaged 7,102 fans.

After the season, Johnson and Betty plan to get together to talk about how their franchises can help each other, despite their competition for discretionary income. Johnson kicked around the idea of producing a commercial together or promoting their teams by sending their players to the others' games.

"If you can raise the awareness of women's professional sports, they'll come out, whether it's my game or her game," Johnson said. "It doesn't matter. We just want them to come out. It'll be good for both sports in the end."

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