Basketball-Toronto to be first WNBA team outside the United States

By Thomson Reuters May 23, 2024 | 8:31 AM

TORONTO (Reuters) -The Canadian city of Toronto was awarded on Thursday a WNBA expansion franchise that will begin play in the 2026 season, making it the league’s first outside the United States.

The Women’s National Basketball Association’s 14th franchise will play home games at an 8,700-seat arena in the city’s downtown area and additional games may also take place at the home of the NBA’s Toronto Raptors and across Canada.

“Bringing a WNBA team to Toronto represents an important milestone for our league as we continue to expand both domestically and outside the United States,” WNBA Commissioner Cathy Engelbert said in a news release.

Just over a year ago, the WNBA held its first game in Canada, a sold-out exhibition attended by 19,923 fans at the home of the Raptors.

The pre-season game offered another sign that there is a growing appetite in Canada’s biggest city and financial capital for professional women’s basketball.

The team will be owned by Kilmer Sports Ventures, which is headed by Toronto billionaire Larry Tanenbaum, who is also chairman of the NBA Board of Governors and of Maple Leaf Sports & Entertainment, which owns the city’s NBA, NHL and MLS teams.

“Today is a game-changing day not only for women’s basketball but also for sports in Canada,” Tanenbaum said in the WNBA release.

“This franchise will be Canada’s team, and we are so excited to unite the country and inspire pride and passion in fans from coast to coast.”

The WNBA returned to Canada this year for another pre-season game, this time in Edmonton, that was played before a capacity crowd of 16,655.

(Reporting by Frank Pingue in Toronto, editing by Ed Osmond)