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Cathy Engelbert: Bay Area a ‘top candidate’ for WNBA expansion

WNBA commissioner Cathy Engelbert speaks before presenting the WNBA All-Star MVP award at Wintrust Arena. (Stephen Gosling/NBAE via Getty Images)

WNBA commissioner Cathy Engelbert considers the Bay Area a “top candidate” for expansion, she said during All-Star weekend.

Engelbert spoke about the league’s plans for expansion, revealing that the league is aiming to expand by no later than the 2025 season.

In June, Engelbert said that the WNBA is looking to add to teams, and that the league has narrowed its list of candidates to 10 to 12 cities.

“I’d love it in ’24, but probably looking out to that kind of timeline, and again, lots of cities interested,” Engelbert told reporters. “That’s the good news, and now we have to find the right ownership groups with the right commitment and financial wherewithal to really be committed to standing up a WNBA team in their city.”

The San Francisco Bay Area is included among the contenders. In an appearance on The Players’ Pod in May, Sue Bird slotted the Bay Area as one of her top picks.

“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.

It’s been years since the league added a new franchise, with the Atlanta Dream joining in 2008.

“The [Bay Area] has got to be a top candidate,” Engelbert said last Thursday. “You know, obviously, the Warriors, and there’s others that have expressed interest in that area. To have the right fan base…as you can imagine the diversity of the city scores really high.”

Location in the Bay Area would be something else under consideration. Oakland has been amongst cities who have expressed interest, with the African American Sports and Entertainment Group, led by former WNBA star Alana Beard, petitioning with the City of Oakland for rights to purchase the Coliseum complex.

Meanwhile the Golden State Warriors, who left Oakland for San Francisco, have twice attempted to bring the WNBA to the Bay Area.

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.”