WNBA Announces First Franchise Outside US

It's going to Toronto
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted May 23, 2024 1:50 PM CDT
WNBA Announces First Franchise Outside US
Larry Tanenbaum, chair of Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment, arrives for the annual meeting of the NBA's Board of Governors in New York on April 18, 2013. The WNBA is expanding north, with Toronto gaining a franchise that will begin play in 2026. The team will be owned by Tanenbaum.   (AP Photo/Seth Wenig, File)

Toronto has been awarded the WNBA's first franchise outside the United States, with the expansion team set to begin play in 2026. The team will be owned by Larry Tanenbaum-led Kilmer Sports Ventures. Tanenbaum also is the chairman and a minority owner of Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment, which owns several Toronto sports franchises, including the NBA's Raptors and NHL's Maple Leafs. "Growing internationally ... helps us reach new audiences and bring in new partners," WNBA Commissioner Cathy Engelbert told the AP. "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." Toronto will be the WNBA's 14th franchise, with the expansion team Golden State Valkyries set to start play next year.

In Toronto, "we have been missing one critical piece—women's professional sports," Tanenbaum says. "The world is finally taking notice of something that's been there all along—the immense talent, passion, and competition in women's sports." Toronto will play at the 8,700-seat Coca-Cola Coliseum at Exhibition Place and will have the ability to move up to the Scotiabank Arena on occasion. 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."

Engelbert said the league's exhibition games in Canada the last two seasons showed the passion of the fans in the country for women's basketball. "When I was up for the preseason game, Kia [Nurse] and I did a youth clinic. The reaction from young girls to Kia and what she stands for, they so admire her," Engelbert said. Nurse is one of a handful of Canadian players playing in the WNBA, with more on the way. "No doubt it's helpful to have household names," Engelbert said. The commissioner expects the league to get to 16 teams by 2028. (More WNBA stories.)

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