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WNBA expands to Canada with announcement of Toronto franchise | Sporting News

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The Women’s National Basketball Association is officially going north of the border.

Speaking publicly Thursday, WNBA commissioner Cathy Engelbert announced that the league has awarded the City of Toronto its next expansion team. The new team, which hasn’t been named yet, will begin play in 2026.

According to a statement, the team will be owned by Kilmer Sports Ventures. Larry Tanenbaum, Chairman of Kilmer Sports, is also Chairman of Maple Leaf Sports & Entertainment, which owns the Raptors, Maple Leafs and Toronto FC, among other franchises.

The Toronto team will be the 14th franchise in the WNBA. While only 12 teams are competing in the 2024 season, the newly-named Golden State Valkyries will start play in 2025 in San Francisco.

“Bringing a WNBA team to Toronto represents an important milestone for our league as we continue to expand both domestically and outside the United States,” Engelbert said in a statement. “With Larry Tanenbaum’s distinguished record of leading successful sports franchises and Toronto’s appeal as a dynamic, diverse city that cares deeply about the game of basketball, we are confident that this new team will thrive as a first-class WNBA organization and become a great source of inspiration and support for the Toronto-area community and across Canada.”

Canada’s first WNBA team will play its home games at Coca-Cola Coliseum in downtown Toronto. First opened in 1921, Coca-Cola Coliseum hosted some of the events during 2016 NBA All-Star Weekend, including the Celebrity All-Star Game. It also hosted two men’s college basketball games in December 2023 — Purdue-Alabama and Clemson-TCU — as part of the Hall of Fame Series.

The statement also said some of the team’s games might be played at Scotiabank Arena, which houses the Raptors and Maple Leafs. There is also a plan to build a new “state-of-the-art” practice facility in Toronto.

“Torontonians are excited to welcome our very own WNBA team,” said Toronto Mayor Olivia Chow. “This would not have been possible without the hard work of Canadian athletes who have created renewed enthusiasm and excitement for professional women’s sports. I cannot wait to cheer for our team and watch them bring home a WNBA championship.”

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