The Athletic dropped some exciting news on Thursday, announcing that Philly is one of six markets in consideration for a WNBA expansion team. They spoke with WNBA Commissioner Cathy Engelert on the topic of expansion.
There was a lot of information found throughout this report, and I highly recommend that you check it out if you haven’t done so already. Here are a few of the major points in regard to possible WNBA expansion:
“Commissioner Cathy Engelbert told The Athletic she hopes to identify one or two cities for an expansion franchise by the start of the WNBA playoffs in September or by year’s end at the latest. Those new teams could begin to play as early as the 2024 season, she said. This would be the first time the league has added an expansion team since the Atlanta Dream were founded in 2008.”
In order to identify the most viable places for a WNBA expansion team, the league will consider a number of priorities and categories and will run each city through 25 data points within five categories: demographics, psychographics (market research or statistics classifying population groups according to psychological variables), sports benchmarks, viewership and fan data.
Engelbert estimates an 18- to 24-month timeline from the identification of a new team to its inaugural season. She said the timeline would be determined by “whether the city has the arena and can get these contracts done and get season-ticket holders sold and corporate sponsors.”
The report went to mention six potential markets: Oakland, Philly, Portland, San Francisco, Toronto, and Nashville. Well-known comedian Wanda Sykes has been heavily linked to the idea of adding a WNBA franchise in Philly, and has been mentioned as part of a group (which also reportedly includes Hall of Famer Dawn Staley) with interest in bringing a team to the city:
“Sources say Sykes, who lives in Pennsylvania part-time, is a part of a group with interest in bringing an expansion team to Philadelphia. Sykes could not be reached for comment. Sources also have connected South Carolina coach Dawn Staley, a Philadelphia native, to the group.”
Interestingly enough, the Philadelphia 76ers and their ownership group, Harris and Blitzer Sports Entertainment were later mentioned in this report:
“League sources believe Philadelphia has potential as an eventual expansion city, but it would likely mean the involvement of the 76ers — both financially and in terms of an arena. Though 76ers owners Josh Harris and David Blitzer have bought a number of franchises outside of the Sixers, anything linking the 76ers ownership group to a WNBA expansion franchise would be premature, a source said.
While the 76ers play in the Wells Fargo Center, they do not own it and have a lease that runs through 2031. Even if 76ers ownership were to get involved, they do not control dates at the building.”
Philly is the fourth largest media market in the country, and it’s the biggest remaining market that doesn’t have a WNBA team. The potential for adding one is huge, and it’s safe to assume that our die-hard sports city would be ecstatic over the idea. It sounds like there’s a lot of dominos left to fall, but let’s hope this idea comes to fruition in the near future.