The WNBA has agreed to grant the Golden State Warriors an expansion franchise in 2025, a person familiar with the situation told The Associated Press on Wednesday.
While the deal hasn’t been finalized, WNBA Commissioner Cathy Engelbert is expected to be in the San Francisco Bay Area on Thursday to announce the new franchise, according to the person who spoke to the AP on condition of anonymity because no official announcement has been made.
The plan to grant Golden State an expansion team was first reported by The Athletic. Engelbert told the AP in August that a huge priority for the league was that any new ownership group treat players in top-notch way.
The commissioner also said any new owners would need to “be a long-term investor in the team and I can’t understate having the right arena and practice facility. I don’t want to bring an owner in this league who is going to be in the bottom quartile as it relates to player experience,” she said. “They’ve got to be in the top quartile. In fact, they should be at the top.”
The Warriors fit that bill.
While Golden State has never had a WNBA franchise before, the Warriors have been one of the premiere teams in the NBA, winning four championships since 2015. There is a strong women’s basketball fan base in the area, given Stanford and Cal’s success.
Golden State owner Joe Lacob helped establish the American Basketball League in 1995 and owned the San Jose Lasers.
The WNBA team would be headquartered in Oakland and games would be played at Chase Center in San Francisco.
Expansion has been one of Engelbert’s top priorities, but her timeline has shifted over the years. She said last year that she hoped to announce one or two expansion teams at the end of the year, in hopes of them playing by 2024. Now they’ll have to wait at least another year.
Other cities that were in the mix included Denver, Toronto, Portland and Philadelphia.
Portland had a WNBA team from 2000-02, playing its games at the Rose Garden before the franchise folded. There has been a strong women’s basketball fan base in the state over the past few seasons with the success of Oregon and Oregon State on the college level.
The city also has a big women’s sports presence with the NWSL Thorns, who won the league’s title last year and three overall. Portland also has the Sports Bra — the first sports bar dedicated to women’s sports — where Engelbert was part of a panel discussion on the WNBA earlier this year.
The WNBA last expanded in 2008 with the addition of the Atlanta Dream. There currently are 12 teams in the league.
AP WNBA: https://apnews.com/hub/wnba-basketball