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‘This team is Canada’s team’: Here’s what you need to know about the WNBA’s Toronto expansion

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The Women’s National Basketball Association (WNBA) has officially announced that it’s expanding north of the border with a first-ever Canadian team in Toronto.


All three levels of government were on hand to mark Thursday’s announcement, as well as WNBA Commissioner Cathy Engelbert and Toronto businessman Larry Tanenbaum, who heads Kilmer Sports Ventures which was awarded the franchise.


“This team is Canada’s team,” Tanenbaum told an audience in downtown Toronto, which included local rap superstar Drake, Toronto Raptors All-Star Scottie Barnes and former Raptor and 2019 NBA champion Kyle Lowry.


“Just over 30 years ago, I saw an opportunity to bring the NBA to Canada. We, as a city and as a country, were ready to welcome Canada’s first NBA franchise to Toronto. It was the right time at the right place, and I jumped on the chance,” the chairman of Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment, which owns the Raptors and the NHL’s Maple Leafs, said.


“Today we’re here because once again, we were in the right place at the right time. And that’s entirely because of the talent, hard work and perseverance of the many women in this room today.”


Kilmer Sports Ventures is paying US$115 million for the team, which has not yet been named.


Here’s everything you need to know about Toronto’s WNBA franchise.


When will the Toronto WNBA team start playing?


According to the WNBA, the Toronto team will start playing in the 2026 season in May as the league’s 14th franchise.


Speaking to CP24 Thursday afternoon, the team’s president, Teresa Resch, said a general manager could be in place by the end of the year. That person, she said, would then have the task of hiring a head coach.


“What’s great is I’ve seen firsthand for the last 11 years how to build a team working for the Raptors and in the front office,” said Resch, who is from Minnesota and moved to Canada a decade ago to join the Toronto’s NBA team.


“I’m really excited to find someone to empower them and also provide some insights when they ask.”


Resch said she wants to build a team that could win when it joins the WNBA.


“We want to make sure that we set our team up for success so we can compete at a championship level right out the gate,” she said.


“We want to represent all of Canada, and we want to win.”


Where will the Toronto WNBA team play?


The team will play its home games at the 8,700-seat Coca-Cola Coliseum, located at Exhibition Place in downtown Toronto. The arena is also home to the AHL’s Toronto Marlies and hosted the first Professional Women’s Hockey League’s (PWHL) Toronto team, as well as its first-ever playoffs.


Tanenbaum said the team will play some games at Scotiabank Arena and across Canada, including stops in Vancouver and Montreal.


The team has also committed to building its own “state-of-the-art” practice facility, the league said.


How do I buy tickets?


Basketball fans looking to buy season-tickets can do so by placing a $50 deposit here


According to Resch, about 2,000 people have already signed up on the ticket waitlist.


“Make sure you get your spot in line because I want to make sure you guys can all come to the games,” she said.


“We’re going to try to make sure to have different packages so we can get to everybody on that waitlist. We want people to pack the stands.”


How is the city marking the news?


Mayor Olivia Chow marked Thursday’s announcement by declaring May 23 “WNBA Day” in Toronto.


“A new WNBA team will have the power to bring people together,” Chow said, while reflecting on her own memories of playing the game as a teenager.


“It will give people another reason to cheer for Toronto…The team will inspire generations of young people who will have new heroes, new role models, legends and new memories of favorite plays.”


What is the team’s name?


According to Tanenbaum, the team will take their time and “solicit public input” to name the franchise.


Resch added that Toronto basketball fans should be on the lookout for ways to be involved in naming the team.


“We want people to be part of this and we want you to give us lots of ideas of how you want to be part of it, too,” she said.


The last WNBA expansion team was awarded to Golden State in October. The franchise announced earlier this month that their hoopers will be dubbed the Golden State Valkyries.


With files from The Associated Press and The Canadian Press

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