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Interest in Bay Area team heats up after WNBA expansion announcement

(Gary Dineen/NBAE via Getty Images).

Conversations around WNBA expansion are heating up after commissioner Cathy Engelbert told The Athletic that the league is looking to add up to two teams, with new franchises potentially starting as soon as 2024.

The Bay Area has been at the top of insiders’ prospective expansion shortlist since October, when former WNBA star Alana Beard partnered with the African American Sports and Entertainment Group (AASEG) in a bid to the league to bring a team to Oakland.

The ownership group has been busy laying the groundwork for its case, with the AASEG winning exclusive negotiating rights to purchase the City of Oakland’s half of the Coliseum complex in November. AASEG founder and president Ray Bobbitt said the potential WNBA team would be prioritized in all facility planning decisions, a massive plus for the league, which has been under fire for arena scheduling woes.

The Golden State Warriors, who moved from Oakland to San Francisco, also have attempted to bring the WNBA to the Bay Area twice before and likely will be keen to try again.

Golden State president and chief operating officer Brandon Schneider has been vocal about his desire to bring a WNBA team to the newly-built Chase Center in San Francisco.

“For us, nothing’s really changed. We are very interested in a W team,” Schneider said. “The time’s got to be right, on a whole number of fronts. It’s something we’ve wanted to do for a while.”

The Bay Area is a popular choice among players as well, with Seattle star Sue Bird backing the idea for an additional California team in an appearance on The Players’ Pod in May.

“I would pick the Bay Area, San Francisco probably. I think Portland would be a good one. I hear rumors and whispers of Toronto being interested, and I actually hear great things about that city,” Bird said of the WNBA expansion choices.

The league has not added a new franchise since 2008, when the Atlanta Dream joined the WNBA, with the league eager to add roster spots to accommodate a ballooning talent pool.

The WNBA has yet to identify any potential expansion cities, but Engelbert told the Athletic that the league had narrowed its shortlist to 10 to 12 locations.