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The WNBA is officially coming to Toronto

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The WNBA is finally, officially, coming to Toronto.

Kilmer Sports Ventures has been awarded a women’s professional basketball team.

The official announcement was made Thursday morning at a press conference at a downtown Toronto hotel attended by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, Ontario Premier Doug Ford, rapper Drake and Toronto Raptors star Scottie Barnes.

The as-yet-unnamed team will play out of the 8,700-seat Coca-Cola Coliseum, an arena in downtown Toronto at Exhibition Place and will have the ability to move up to the Scotiabank Arena on occasion.

Coca-Cola Coliseum is also home to the American Hockey League’s Toronto Marlies and hosted the first Professional Women’s Hockey League’s Toronto team, as well as its first-ever playoffs.

Toronto’s WNBA team will start playing in May 2026. It will be the WNBA’s 14th franchise, with the expansion Golden State Valkyries set to start play next year.

“Growing internationally, I’ve been trying to think through next steps on a global platform,” WNBA Commissioner Cathy Engelbert told The Associated Press ahead of the official announcement.

“It helps us reach new audiences and bring in new partners. The thing I love about going to another country is that the young girls and boys get to see professional basketball for women is important, too.”

The CBC was the first to report on May 10 that the women’s professional basketball league had awarded a franchise to Kilmer Sports Ventures, headed by Toronto businessman Larry Tanenbaum.

Tanenbaum is the chairman and CEO of Kilmer Group and the chairman of the board for Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment, which owns the NBA’s Raptors and the NHL’s Maple Leafs.

Tanenbaum is paying $50 million for the team.

“Our Toronto sports franchises are thriving but, we have been missing one critical piece — women’s professional sports,” Tanenbaum told the AP.

“The world is finally taking notice of something that’s been there all along — the immense talent, passion and competition in women’s sports. So, once again, I saw an opportunity and knew we were in the right place at the right time to bring Canada’s first WNBA team to Toronto. And now we have, making sports history.”

Tanenbaum said the team also will play some games in Vancouver and Montreal.

As far as the name of the team, he said that they’d take their time and “solicit public input.”

Canada has hosted sold-out WNBA pre-season games at Scotiabank Arena in 2023 and Edmonton’s Rogers Place on May 4.

There are four Canadians in the WNBA this season — Aaliyah Edwards, of Kingston, Ont. (Washington Mystics), Bridget Carleton, of Chatham, Ont. (Minnesota Lynx), Laeticia Amihere, of Milton, Ont. (Atlanta Dream), and Hamilton’s Kia Nurse (Los Angeles Sparks).

With files from The Associated Press

This report by The Canadian Press was first published May 23, 2024

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