Toronto confirmed as first WNBA franchise exterior america | WNBA

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By Calvin S. Nelson

Toronto has been awarded the WNBA’s first franchise exterior america, with the enlargement staff set to start play in 2026.

Larry Tanenbaum-led Kilmer Sports activities Ventures is paying $50m for the staff. Tanenbaum is also the chairman and a minority proprietor of Maple Leaf Sports activities and Leisure, the Toronto sports activities big that additionally owns the NHL’s Maple Leafs and NBA’s Raptors together with Toronto’s MLS and Canadian Soccer League franchises.

“Rising internationally, I’ve been making an attempt to suppose by subsequent steps on a worldwide platform,” the WNBA commissioner, Cathy Engelbert, mentioned. “It helps us attain new audiences and herald new companions. The factor I like about going to a different nation is that the younger women and boys get to see skilled basketball for girls is vital, too.”

Toronto would be the WNBA’s 14th franchise, with the enlargement Golden State Valkyries set to start out play subsequent 12 months.

“Our Toronto sports activities franchises are thriving however, we have now been lacking one essential piece – ladies’s skilled sports activities,” Tanenbaum mentioned. “The world is lastly taking discover of one thing that’s been there all alongside – the immense expertise, ardour and competitors in ladies’s sports activities. So, as soon as once more, I noticed a chance and knew we had been in the appropriate place on the proper time to carry Canada’s first WNBA staff to Toronto. And now we have now, making sports activities historical past.”

Toronto will play at 8,700-seat Coca-Cola Coliseum at Exhibition Place and could have the power to maneuver as much as the bigger Scotiabank Area from time to time. Opened in 1921, Coca-Cola Coliseum is also the house of the American Hockey League’s Toronto Marlies.

“Ladies’s sports activities is sweet enterprise,” Tanenbaum mentioned. “Simply go searching – it’s not a second, however a motion and it’s just the start. The funding that we’ll put into the franchise may even be no completely different than the opposite franchises.”

Tanenbaum mentioned that the staff additionally will play some video games in Vancouver and Montreal. So far as the title of the staff, he mentioned that they’d take their time and “solicit public enter.”

Kilmer Sports activities Ventures, created as a stand-alone firm to function the staff, has dedicated to constructing a observe facility, however till that’s prepared, it’ll prepare at College of Toronto’s Goldring Centre for Excessive Efficiency Sport.

Engelbert mentioned WNBA exhibition video games in Canada the final two seasons confirmed the eagerness of the followers within the nation for girls’s basketball.

“Once I was up for the preseason sport, Kia [Nurse] and I did a youth clinic. The response from younger women to Kia and what she stands for, they so admire her,” Engelbert mentioned.

Nurse, some extent guard for the Los Angeles Sparks, is one in every of a handful of Canadian gamers enjoying within the WNBA with extra on the best way.

“Little doubt it’s useful to have family names,” Engelbert mentioned.

The commissioner expects the league to get to 16 groups by 2028. “We’ve already had a whole lot of curiosity and it acquired extra tangible and critical from a good quantity of cities after the draft,” Engelbert mentioned. “We’re in a very good place to get to 16 by definitely ’27-28.”

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