Commissioner: Consideration of WNBA expansion to Portland on hold

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Updated: November 2, 2023



Alexa Philippou, ESPNNov 1, 2023, 07:23 PM ET

CloseCovers women’s college basketball and the WNBA
Previously covered UConn and the WNBA Connecticut Sun for the Hartford Courant
Stanford graduate and Baltimore native with further experience at the Dallas Morning News, Seattle Times and Cincinnati Enquirer

Portland’s bid for a WNBA expansion franchise has been deferred after it had previously emerged as the likely candidate for the league’s next team.

Portland was believed to be well on its way to joining Golden State as an expansion franchise, sources told ESPN’s Ramona Shelburne last month, though plans had not been finalized. WNBA commissioner Cathy Engelbert told reporters after the Golden State announcement in early October that the goal was to add a second expansion franchise, with both beginning play in the 2025 season.

However, in a letter obtained by ESPN on Wednesday from Engelbert to Oregon Sen. Ron Wyden, Engelbert wrote, “in light of the potential renovation of the Moda Center currently anticipated to take place during consecutive summers, consideration of a WNBA franchise for Portland will be deferred for now until the timing and scope of the arena improvements are settled.”

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The Moda Center is home to the NBA’s Portland Trail Blazers. While Golden State’s new WNBA team will be owned by the NBA’s Warriors, the ownership group for the proposed Portland franchise was reportedly led by local entrepreneur Kirk Brown.

Engelbert indicated support for bringing a franchise to Portland down the line, writing, “it became clear that Portland is an ideal destination for a WNBA franchise” and “when the time is right, we look forward to pursuing prospects for bringing the WNBA to Portland.”

Portland previously had a WNBA team, the Fire, which competed from 2000 to 2002.

Engelbert visited Portland in February for an event co-hosted by Wyden and featuring personnel from the Trail Blazers, the NWSL’s Portland Thorns, Oregon’s and Oregon State’s women’s basketball teams, and others, drumming up anticipation that professional women’s basketball could be on its way to the Rose City.

“Senator Wyden is committed to continue working hard with everybody in Portland who’s teaming up to bring our city and state a WNBA franchise,” Wyden said in a statement to ESPN. “Portland and all of Oregon have long proven a hotbed for women’s sports, and he has no doubt the WNBA would succeed here in a similar fashion.”



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