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Cathy Engelbert: Philly, Toronto among cities with WNBA expansion interest

(Randy Belice/NBAE via Getty Images)

WNBA commissioner Cathy Engelbert said the league is continuing to evaluate cities as possible homes for expansion franchises, with both Philadelphia and Toronto among those with interest in a new team.

Speaking with Boardroom on Sunday, Engelbert echoed several of her previous discussions of expansion, stating that the league wants to get the process right.

“I have not been shy about saying we need to expand,” said Engelbert, “but we want to do it through when we can find the right ownership groups with the right arena situation in the right cities that we think will be supportive.”

While she acknowledged the increasing calls for expansion in recent years, she said the league did not want to bring in new teams while “still feeling the effects of the pandemic.” But now the league is looking ahead and aims to add “a couple of teams” in “the next couple of years,” Engelbert said.

The interest has been vast, with “10 to 15 cities” interested in becoming the home of a WNBA team, she said. She again mentioned the Bay Area in particular as a top candidate.

“When technology is driving so much of your economy, not to have a team in the Bay Area seemed like a missed opportunity,” she said. “Especially with Stanford’s women’s basketball program having been so successful. So it kind of struck me that would be a market that would be of interest.”

She also mentioned Philadelphia and Toronto, as well as Austin, Denver, Nashville, Charlotte, Florida, Houston, Sacramento and Portland, as cities that have shown interest in an expansion team.

“Now we have to find the right ownership groups to step up with the right kind of capital investment,” she said.

The league is looking at “all the factors” that could impact a new franchise, according to Engelbert – including whether or not the state laws support reproductive rights.

“We have run an analysis of data on over 100 cities through 25 different metrics, psychographics, demographics,” she said. “So I think some of that stuff would be picked up in the psychographic analysis of the diversity of the workforce there, the diversity of the population, the LGBTQ+ community, certainly NCAA viewership, current WNBA fandom.

“Certainly you’ll see as we start to think about where the best places will be, I think they will be in states that hopefully support reproductive rights. And obviously we put out our statement with the NBA and have put out additional statements that support reproductive rights.”