WNBA expansion to Portland ‘postponed for now’

Although Portland, Ore., to be In WNBA’s strong opinion WNBA Commissioner Kathy Engelbert sent a letter to U.S. Sen. Ron Wyden on Wednesday, telling Wyden that the city’s consideration of the league’s upcoming expansion round will be “put on hold for now.”

In a letter obtained by The Athletic, Engelbert wrote that over the years of the league, “it has become clear that Portland is an ideal destination for a WNBA franchise.” However, she said, the WNBA and future ownership group have been looking to resolve issues related to the Moda Center, the arena where the NBA’s Portland Trail Blazers play. Because of the potential renovations, she wrote, the city won’t host the team until “the timing and scope of the arena improvements are resolved.”

Oregon is the first to report that efforts to bring a WNBA team to Portland have stalled.

The Blazers have leases for the Moda Center, where the Blazers play, and the adjacent 12,000-seat Veterans Coliseum. Moda Center’s lease runs until 2025 and has yet to be renewed. The Blazers want to renovate Moda Center, but renovations will take place during the NBA offseason, which is when the WNBA season is underway.

Kirk Brown, who ran Portland’s bid for a WNBA team, was a wealthy businessman who founded the company now known as ZoomInfo. It’s unclear whether Brown will be involved in the future, though there is a possibility that others could be involved in renewing the bid if the city can sufficiently assuage the WNBA’s concerns. One person with knowledge of the talks between the league and the city believes Portland is not out of the race just yet, despite the complexities.

A WNBA spokeswoman did not respond to a message for further clarification. A representative for Portland Auctions declined to comment.

“Senator Wyden is committed to working hard with everyone in Portland to bring our city together and make it a WNBA franchise,” a Wyden spokesperson said in a statement. Portland and all of Oregon proved a platform for women’s sports long ago, and there’s no doubt the WNBA will succeed here in the same way.

At the annual WNBA Finals news conference on Oct. 8, she said the league’s “goal” is to add a 14th team by the start of the 2025 season. It previously announced the Bay Area as its 13th franchise location.

During media coverage, Portland was considered the favorite for its second expansion team since 2008. Next reported in early October that talks had reached the WNBA’s Board of Governors, which would have to approve the franchise. to be added.

However, Engelbert said the WNBA is still in talks with “various cities” regarding an additional team.

“Hopefully we’ll have something on this by the end of the year,” she said, adding that the WNBA has been in talks with other cities like Philadelphia, Charlotte, Austin and Nashville. In talking about the upcoming expansion, she clearly mentioned Denver’s in-person visit to Toronto last May and the league’s sellout preseason game.

“Whether it’s being able to get the ownership group the right set of ownership from the state of the arena and all the other things that matter,” Engelbert said, “being part of a long-term investment in women’s sports and a WNBA team.”

Last February, Engelbert visited Portland for an event focused on women’s sports led by Weeden. The event was held at The Sports Bra, a Portland bar dedicated to women’s sports, and featured female athletes from around the state.

Even three weeks ago, Wyden was confident in Portland’s chances of landing a WNBA team. “I think what the commissioner saw when she accepted my invitation to come to Oregon was unprecedented in the country,” he told The Athletic. “We brought together not only the Ducks and the Beavers and the Thorns and the Trail Blazers and so on. We showed that the passion for a team in our community is unprecedented.

“That’s why I think we’re going to win when the final scoreboard goes up.”

He added that the expansion effort will be a “special priority.” However, Portland’s WNBA future looks very doubtful right now.

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(Photo: Steph Chambers / Getty)

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