The league had hoped to announce expansion plans in 2022.
The Women’s National Basketball Association season is about ready to underway but the league commissioner Kathy Englebert is looking ahead to 2025 and 2026 and adding at least two teams. Englebert said the WNBA began with 100 potential expansion cities but has narrowed the field to about 20 markets. Those areas include Portland, Oregon, the San Francisco Bay Area, Charlotte, Austin, Denver, Nashville and Toronto. The league has also shown some interest in Philadelphia. Engelbert said in September 2022 that the business would have its expansion announcement by the end of 2022 but did not happen. The WNBA’s expansion committee is still gathering information on the various ownership groups that have expressed interest in joining the league. Englebert said the COVID-19 pandemic has played a role in stopping the expansion announcement. Engelbert claimed the league received “a ton of interest” from cities, more than she originally anticipated. The league did an analysis of about 100 markets including a look at demographics, women’s college basketball TV ratings, arena availability and the number of Fortune 500 companies located in each market. What she did not talk about was government support which is a must for any sports league or franchise.
In 2022, Oregon Senator Ron Wyden wrote, “a WNBA franchise in my hometown of Portland would be a slam dunk-success for the city and the league. It would grow the sport nationally and further deepen the connection between basketball and the city.” Engelbert did throw up a red flag when it comes to a city to make a pitch. She said a city’s “population, political affiliation and policies, and generational demographics” will play a role in the selection as WNBA players are politically active. Portland did have a WNBA team between 1999 and 2002 and the franchise was not a financial success. The Fire owner Paul Allen shutdown the business.
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