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L.A. Sparks roll back prices to mark 14th anniversary of WNBAs debut

6/21/2011, 8:13 a.m.

LOS ANGELES, Calif.--The Los Angeles Sparks will mark the 14th anniversary of the WNBA's inaugural game by reducing the prices for all but the courtside seats to their 1997 levels for tonight's game at Staples Center against the New York Liberty.

Tickets that are usually priced at $55 or $36 will be sold for $20, while the price for the remaining non-courtside tickets will be $7.50.

The anniversary will also be marked by highlights from the Sparks' history being shown on the video board, all fans receiving a commemorative poster featuring the greatest players in team history and several players wearing the limited-edition Sparks 15th anniversary sneakers, including forward Tina Thompson, the only player to play in all 15 WNBA seasons.

The Sparks began play with a 67-57 loss to the Liberty on June 21, 1997.

Kathy Goodman, now one of the Sparks' owners, was among the crowd announced at 14,284 at the Forum.

"I just remember it being so exciting," Goodman told City News Service in an interview this week.

"The Forum was a great place to see a basketball game. The Staples Center is nice, but there's something about the intimacy of The Forum. To have that place packed and rocking for women athletes was exciting."

Penny Toler, then a Sparks guard and now the team's general manager, made the first basket.

"It seems like a lifetime ago, but it's something that will live on way past when I'm gone," Toler said.

The WNBA began play with eight teams. The Sparks are among four that remain in operation and among the three in their original city. The Sparks are among six teams to win the league championship, winning the titles in 2001 and 2002.

To Toler, there's more awareness about the Sparks now than when they were formed.

"We're still at the stage where we'd like everybody to be familiar with it, but now if you mention the Sparks, I would at least say eight out of 10 people would know that the Sparks are the WNBA team," Toler said.

While Goodman acknowledged that the Sparks "have a long way to go," she said "we're pretty happy" about the team's attendance and its "good, committed sponsors," including Farmers Insurance.

"What we want is for the WNBA to be taken in the general culture as a major league sport," Goodman said, including being listed on its own on ESPN's website, instead of being among "other sports."

"We'll get there," Goodman said. "Culture has become so much more accepting of women's sports in general and has embraced women's basketball in particular."