The WNBA pauses expansion plans to Portland
The GIST: After the Bay Area won its bid for the WNBA’s 13th franchise, it seemed like a slam dunk for Portland to receive the 14th…until it didn’t. Now, details are emerging about why the PDX bid fell apart and where the W will go next. Farewell.
The details: On Wednesday, WNBA commissioner Cathy Engelbert wrote to Oregon senator Ron Wyden, citing impending Moda Center renovations as the reason for the pump fake — surprising, considering the reno plans were not new. However, she acknowledged that Portland is an ideal expansion city and the league will reconsider when the time is right.
- According to OregonLive’s Bill Oram, the deal really fell apart when Kirk Brown — the tech millionaire leading Portland’s bid — became uncomfortable with W ownership conditions and backed out at the last minute, leaving the effort without a principal owner or the required $50M expansion fee. A technical foul.
Why Portland: Previously home to the WNBA’s Fire in the early 2000s, the Rose City has blossomed into an epicenter for women’s sports. When Engelbert visited in February for a panel at Portland’s famous The Sports Bra, she was welcomed by the NWSL’s Portland Thorns, as well as Oregon and Oregon State’s women’s basketball teams.
What’s next: Despite the unexpected setback for Portland, there’s no indication that the WNBA won’t still add a 14th franchise for 2025. Remaining candidate cities include Austin, Charlotte, Denver, Nashville, Philadelphia, and Toronto — despite the 6ix’s recent bid withdrawal. May the odds be ever in their favor.