After years of conflicting statements and reports, extensive studies and shifting timelines, the WNBA has finally moved on expansion. Earlier this week, The Oregonian, another new franchise starting in Portland is "close to a done deal," and an announcement will come before the end of the month., and according to
That coincides with other media reports. The Rose Garden Report has said, "There are strong indications that Portland is next." The Athletic has stated Portland was "under strong consideration" and The Next described Portland as "expected" to be awarded a team.
Furthermore, there have been positive updates from Sport Oregon CEO Jim Etzel and Oregon senator Ron Wyden.
Here's Etzel: "We believe the WNBA would benefit greatly with a franchise in Portland as we are the best market for women's sports in the world -- just ask the [NWSL Portland] Thorns."
And Wyden's spokesperson: Wyden "remains confident the scoreboard will end up with Portland winning that franchise."
Portland was not initially thought to be one of the main contenders for a franchise, but Toronto is no longer in the running -- in large part due to logistical issues caused by the lack of charter flights -- and Denver is not in the mix anymore. That leaves Portland, who has a strong track record of supporting women's sports, and previously had a WNBA team, the Fire, from 2000-02. The Fire averaged 8,500 fans per game during their three-year run, and only folded due to the team's owner, the late Paul Allen, citing financial losses.
Back in February, WNBA commissioner Cathy Engelbert visited Portland to discuss expansion and the state of women's sports at an event hosted by local groups and politicians. Speaking to the Sports Business Journal in May, Engelbert said "I visited Portland earlier this year, which I had visited right before the pandemic, and saw the love for women's basketball there."
The WNBA has not expanded since 2008, when the Atlanta Dream were added to the mix. Bay Area and Portland franchises would bring the total number of teams to 14 -- two shy of the league's all-time high of 16 from 2000-02.