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Saturday, February 24, 2024
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Portland’s WNBA Expansion Plans Fall Through

  • Seemingly inevitable awarding of new franchise scuttled by late-arriving issues
  • League still has several other markets interested in expansion teams
WNBA broadcasts on ESPN platforms are averaging 546,000 viewers through 13 games.
Wendell Cruz-USA TODAY Sports

A seemingly inevitable WNBA expansion to Portland has fallen through, leaving new questions for both the Oregon city and the league’s immediate plans for growth.

Portland had been widely reported as a lock for the next WNBA expansion team, particularly in the wake of the recently announced awarding of the league’s 13th franchise to California’s Bay Area. An announcement seemed imminent, particularly given that the WNBA wanted a 14th team in place for the 2025 season to join the new Bay Area team.

But The Oregonian reported that discussions between the WNBA and local entrepreneur Kirk Brown have broken down, with concerns about a practice facility said to be among the foremost issues. 

WNBA practice facilities have grown much more expansive and advanced in recent years, with a new facility for the two-time defending champion Las Vegas Aces particularly raising the bar.

League commissioner Cathy Engelbert then confirmed the decision in a letter to Oregon Sen. Ron Wyden, a prominent advocate for WNBA expansion to the state, saying that the “consideration of a WNBA franchise for Portland will be deferred for now” until a timetable and scope of potential renovations to the Moda Center are finalized. That arena is home to the NBA’s Portland Trail Blazers and would also house a new WNBA team.

Engelbert did add in the letter to Wyden that Portland “is an ideal destination for a WNBA franchise.”

Portland previously had a WNBA franchise, the Fire, between 2000-02, but the city has become an epicenter of women’s sports since then, with several college teams and the NWSL Thorns finding success both on and off the field. 

Even with the apparent Portland collapse, the WNBA is still looking at additional rounds of expansion. Other candidate cities include Austin, Charlotte, Denver, Nashville, Philadelphia, and Toronto.

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