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Toronto selected as home for the next WNBA franchise



Toronto selected as home for the next WNBA franchise

By Nadine Yousif,BBC News, Toronto

Getty Images A 12-foot-tall sculpture of the WNBA logo is pictured at the Stackt Market in Toronto ahead of Canada's first WNBA game set for May 13, 2023. Toronto Star/Lance McMillanMay-10-2023Getty Images

Toronto’s franchise marks the league’s first expansion outside the US

Toronto, Canada’s largest city, will be home to the next franchise of the Women’s National Basketball Association (WNBA), Canadian media has reported.

The new team is expected to start playing in 2026, industry sources told the CBC and the Toronto Star.

The addition is part of a larger expansion by the WNBA, which is hoping to grow to a total of 16 teams by 2028.

The expansion to Toronto brings the total number of teams in the league to 14.

It also marks the league’s first expansion outside of the US.

Kilmer Sports Venture, a company founded by Toronto billionaire Larry Tanenbaum, will be spearheading the expansion to the city, according to media reports.

Mr Tanenbaum is a minority owner and chairman of Maple Leafs Sports and Entertainment, which owns several other Toronto sports franchises including the ice hockey team the Toronto Maple Leafs, the men’s basketball team the Toronto Raptors, and the Major League Soccer team Toronto FC.

An official announcement is expected on 23 May.

Asked about the reports on Friday, Toronto’s mayor Olivia Chow was tight-lipped, saying: “Hopefully there will be good news soon. Just wait.”

The WNBA’s commissioner Cathy Engelbert stated last month that her league intends to grow by three additional teams in the next four years.

Earlier this year, the women’s basketball league announced its 13th team in the San Francisco Bay Area. The team is expected to play in the 2025 season.

Getty Images Rae Burrell #12 of the Los Angeles Sparks signs fan gear after the game on May 4, 2024 at Rodgers Place in Edmonton, Canada. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.Getty Images

Canada has hosted WNBA games in the past – most recently a match-up between Los Angeles and Seattle in Edmonton, Alberta on 4 May

Other cities that were considered alongside Toronto for the league’s 14th team included Philadelphia, Portland, Denver and Nashville, Ms Engelbert has said.

“We’re talking to a lot of different cities,” she told reporters in April, adding “it’s complex because you need an arena and a practice facility and player housing and all the things, you need committed long-term ownership groups. The nice thing is we’re getting a lot of calls.”

Basketball has enjoyed major success in Toronto in recent years, after the city’s National Basketball Association (NBA) team the Toronto Raptors won the championship in June 2019 – a feat that was celebrated by hundreds of thousands of fans that packed the city’s streets at the time.

Women’s basketball has also seen a surge in fans in North America following the success of college player Caitlin Clark, who was selected earlier this year by the Indiana Fever in the WNBA draft

Thanks to Clark’s rise in popularity, ticket prices for the women’s championship this year cost twice as much as the men’s on average, reaching as high as $11,000 (£8,736).

Canada has hosted WNBA games in the past, most recently a pre-season game between the Los Angeles Sparks and Seattle Storm, which took place in Edmonton, Alberta on 4 May.

According to CBC, Toronto’s team will play in the city’s Coca-Cola Coliseum, an 8,000-seat arena that is currently home to Toronto’s Professional Women’s Hockey League team.

The BBC has reached out to the WNBA for comment on its reported expansion to Toronto.

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