Toronto to be granted WNBA expansion team for 2026 season

CityNews' Sports Reporter Lindsay Dunn spoke with former WNBA player and current Team Canada player Kayla Alexander about Toronto potentially getting a WNBA team.

The WNBA is coming to Toronto as the city will be awarded an expansion franchise to begin play in 2026, Sportsnet confirmed on Friday.

Billionaire Larry Tanenbaum of Kilmer Sports Inc., who proposed a bid to bring a WNBA franchise to Toronto in March, will own the team.

Tanenbaum is currently a minority owner and chairman of Maple Leaf Sports & Entertainment (MLSE), which owns the Maple Leafs, Raptors, Toronto FC, Argonauts and Marlies (Rogers, which operates this website and its affiliates, owns 37.5 per cent of MLSE).

A formal announcement of Toronto’s expansion team is expected on May 23.

A WNBA spokesperson declined to confirm, saying the league continues to engage in “productive conversations with interested ownership groups in a number of markets and the granting of any expansion teams requires a vote of the WNBA and NBA Board of Governors.”

The CBC first reported that Tanenbaum has considered Toronto’s Coca-Cola Coliseum, which the Marlies call home, as a venue for the WNBA club. Former Raptors vice-president of basketball operations and player development Teresa Resch, who stepped down from her position in March, will be involved with the new WNBA franchise in Toronto.

In May 2023, when Toronto hosted a sold-out WNBA pre-season game, WNBA commissioner Cathy Englebert said, “Toronto scored very high on the list” of cities the league is considering for expansion.

Founded in 1996, the WNBA consists of 12 teams and operates under the umbrella of the NBA.

The WNBA awarded the NBA’s Golden State Warriors a 13th franchise in October, and Englebert said the league’s “goal is to have a 14th team by 2025.”

WNBA player Kayla Alexander, who is on Team Canada’s women’s national basketball team that will play in Paris this summer, said she is excited about the prospect.

“I was thinking finally, it’s about time. I’m so excited,” she told CityNews’ Lindsay Dunn. “They’ll finally have the opportunity to play professional basketball in their home country in front of their friends and family.”

When asked if she ever thought it was possible for Canada to get a WNBA team, Alexander said she has always been hopeful.

“Even before the murmurs, I was hopeful because there’s so much talent coming out of Canada,” she said.

“I feel like, especially Toronto, I feel like we’ve been ready for a team. And I love that we’re going with the momentum of how the game’s growing.”

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