Axios Des Moines

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Hey, hey Tuesday.

💧 Weather: Possible showers with a high of 69°.

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Today's Smart Brevity™ count is 839 words — a 3-minute read.

1 big thing: The "Caitlin Clark effect" continues

Photo illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios. Photos: Nathanial S. Butler, Cooper Neill and Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

Caitlin Clark's gargantuan star power has already made its mark on WNBA broadcasting and advertising, even before her regular season premiere tonight. But achieving equal treatment similar to the NBA will be slower going.

Why it matters: The WNBA was already on an upward trajectory, but the arrival of superstars like Clark and LSU's Angel Reese put the league in a heightened position to garner more acclaim and deals for teams and their players.

Context: Clark already broke the glass ceiling at the University of Iowa by helping the women's basketball program achieve record-breaking ticket sales, viewership and a strong talent pipeline.

By the numbers: The WNBA draft this year, when the Indiana Fever selected Clark with the No. 1 pick, drew in 3.09 million viewers — four times higher than the 2023 draft.

  • Dick's Sporting Goods announced it is selling Clark Fever apparel in all 724 of its stores following the craze for her college merch.
  • Today's Fever game against the Connecticut Sun will be the first live sports event on Disney+ and is the Sun's first sold-out game since 2003.

Yes, but: The WNBA faces major financial shortcomings in comparison to the NBA.

  • Bloomberg News reports the WNBA was projected to make $180 million to $200 million for the 2023 season.
  • Meanwhile, the NBA earned over $10 billion at the end of its 2022 season, NBC reports.

Between the lines: The revenue differences make pay equity more difficult to achieve, despite players' stardom, says James Bisson, editor-in-chief of Sportsbook Review.

What they're saying: Garnering more casual fans by elevating players and their stories — similar to Michael Jordan and Kobe Bryant in the NBA — will help the WNBA charge more for broadcasts and earn more revenue overall.

  • Story arcs, like the rivalry between Clark and Reese, who plays for the Chicago Sky, is one example.
  • "The WNBA would be wise to follow the same path and really lean into its stars," Bisson says.

The bottom line: It's not a matter of "if" Clark will push the WNBA forward, but "when," Bisson says.

  • Clark's talent, combined with her personality, makes her one of the most "complete athletes" in both the NBA and WNBA, Bisson says.
  • "I do believe she will be a transcendent figure in the WNBA."

How to watch: Clark's first season game is tonight at 6:30pm on ESPN and Disney+.

Read more: A preview of the Indiana Fever's season

2. Charted: Ticket prices skyrocket

Table showing the average price of WNBA home game tickets sold on Vivid Seats in 2024. The teams with the most expensive tickets in the 2024 season include the Minnesota Lynx at $241, the Washington Mystics at $192 and the Atlanta Dream at $191. All WNBA teams have experienced an increase in prices since the previous season with the Minnesota Lynx and the Los Angeles Sparks showing the biggest change since 2023.
Data: Vivid Seats; Table: Axios Visuals

Before Caitlin Clark, the WNBA was already surging in popularity, driving a boost in ticket sales and prices.

Why it matters: It's the latest sign that women's professional sports are experiencing an unprecedented boom, with the possibility of bringing in more business opportunities and acclaim for both players and teams.

Read the full story

3. 🤑 1 hot update: The metro's $6M moneymaker

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

We always knew our stank didn't stink, but now it also earns us an annual $6M!

Catch up fast: Des Moines Metropolitan Wastewater Reclamation Authority (WRA) in 2020 completed a project to capture and clean biogasses produced from sewer treatment.

  • They were previously burned off with a large flare.

Driving the news: The gross annual revenue from gas sales is above the early projected estimates of $5M.

  • The earnings help offset the regional utility's expenses.

Yes, but: The $20 million system isn't currently working at full capacity because of equipment issues so the flare has still been used recently, WRA director Scott Hutchens tells Axios.

  • That'll change in the next month or so after some repairs, he says.

🚽 The bottom line: Our browns make gold.

A photo of a gas flare.
These flares at the Des Moines Metropolitan Wastewater Reclamation Authority will again go on hiatus in coming weeks. Photo: Jason Clayworth/Axios

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4. The Ear: Catch up on the news

Illustration: Maura Losch, Lindsey Bailey/Axios

🫡 UI women's basketball coach Lisa Bluder announced her retirement. Longtime assistant coach Jan Jensen was named her successor. (WHO-13)

🔥 Des Moines' air quality is expected to decline from good to a moderate level of concern today, due to the Canadian wildfires. (Des Moines Register)

🚴‍♂️ A new biking initiative will provide free entry on the last day of the Principal Charity Classic next month. (WOI-TV)

👩‍⚕️ A DSM nurse practitioner paid nearly $53,000 to settle claims that she participated in a scheme to defraud Medicare. (Iowa Capital Dispatch)

⭐️ The aurora borealis interrupted some Iowa farmers' work by disrupting tractors' GPS signals. (Iowa Capital Dispatch)

5. A new skate of mind

Subsect employee Jacob Kelley, 21, remembers visiting the shop as a kid and chatting with owner Kevin Jones (right). Photo: Linh Ta/Axios

After nearly 17 years in the East Village, Subsect Skateshop's owner Kevin Jones says the biggest change he's experienced isn't one he expected: an influx of young skaters and their parents in his shop.

Why it matters: It wasn't long ago that skateboarding was discouraged in Des Moines, but the construction of Lauridsen Skatepark is a sign of changing times.

  • Now, Jones says he's seeing young kids making friends at the park, learning tricks he could only dream about when he started skating at eight years old.

What they're saying: "It wasn't cool, especially back then you'd always hear: 'the skateboarders versus the jocks,'" Jones says. "Now, we're getting a lot of newcomers."

The intrigue: Subsect created a video featuring its skaters for a bracket competition by the X-Games for a $10K prize against other shops in the U.S.

"The Office" follow-up NBC series will take place at a "dying, historic Midwest newspaper."

🙊 Jason knows NBC's subplot of the publisher "trying to revive it with volunteer reporters" is definitely not all fictional...

👀 Linh's thoughts: An episode plot point should be the newsroom getting fidget spinners. (This may have been a real-life experience...)

This newsletter was copy edited by Lucia Maher.