WNBA nears its expected two-team expansion announcement - where next?

December 14, 2022
Oakland is mounting a full-court expansion press. Yesterday, two-time WNBA defensive player of the year Alana Beard provided an update on her dream of bringing women’s basketball to NorCal, a timely reminder as the W nears its expected two-team expansion announcement.
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SOURCE: LEON BENNETT/GETTY IMAGES
SOURCE: LEON BENNETT/GETTY IMAGES

The GIST: Oakland is mounting a full-court expansion press. Yesterday, two-time WNBA defensive player of the year Alana Beard provided an update on her dream of bringing women’s basketball to NorCal, a timely reminder as the W nears its expected two-team expansion announcement.

The details: Since partnering with the African American Sports & Entertainment Group (AASEG) last year, the retired pro has talked with the league’s counsel, basketball operations and finance teams. The AASEG and Beard are now working on securing more than $20 million in capital to buy into the WNBA.

  • New owners will likely have to pay $15–$20 million per franchise expected to begin play in 2024, but commissioner Cathy Engelbert described the figure as “low.” Put some respect on women’s sports.

The context: The AASEG is shaking and baking outside of women’s hoops, too. Last month, as part of a larger Oakland infrastructure plan, the group announced plans to bid for an NWSL expansion team in 2024 or 2025. The idea includes buying a stake in and building facilities at the Coliseum complex, owned by the city and MLB’s Oakland Athletics.

  • The group hasn't locked in a venue for an Oakland WNBA franchise just yet, but it already has one option — Oakland Arena. Local officials greenlit a path for the team to play at the former home of the NBA’s Golden State Warriors in 2021.

Zooming out: Beard’s PR push for Oakland is smart as it serves as a reminder of the city’s qualifications — it boasts an eager ownership group, is larger than two cities with WNBA teams (Minneapolis, MN and Uncasville, CT), and has a basketball-sized void to fill after the Warriors left for San Francisco in 2019.

  • As for Beard, she would be charting a new path for retired female athletes as one of the first to build and own a major sports franchise. She may not be alone — four former USWNT players are looking to do the same in the NWSL. Dreamin’ big.
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