Philly's WNBA question could soon be answered: report originally appeared on NBC Sports Philadelphia
A subset of Philadelphia-area basketball fans have been clamoring for WNBA expansion in this basketball-crazed city for years now, as the league has gone back and forth on the idea of adding more teams.
Now WNBA commissioner Cathy Engelbert has made it clear: the league wants to identify places for expansion, and soon.
Is Philly finally getting into the WNBA game?
According to a new report Thursday from The Athletic, it sounds like we'll get our answer shortly.
Reporters Chantel Jennings and Mike Vorkunov spoke to Engelbert for their story, and Engelbert offered the most substantive information yet about future expansion plans:
"In the next few months, the most talked about issue in the WNBA should finally have some clarity.
"Commissioner Cathy Engelbert told The Athletic she hopes to identify one or two cities for an expansion franchise by the start of the WNBA playoffs in September or by year’s end at the latest. Those new teams could begin to play as early as the 2024 season, she said."
September? That's only four months away! Shoot, that's no wait at all. Time to start preparing your "The WNBA is coming!" celebrations.
While Engelbert didn't point to any cities in particular as possible expansion targets, the league has reportedly narrowed its list of candidates down to 10 or 12 locations. Jennings and Vorkunov put together a short list of six locations that, after talking to league sources, they believe would be on that list and would have a realistic shot at landing a team.
One of those locations is indeed Philadelphia.
Here's what they had about the developments around a Philly squad:
"Sources say [comedian Wanda] Sykes, who lives in Pennsylvania part-time, is a part of a group with interest in bringing an expansion team to Philadelphia. Sykes could not be reached for comment. Sources also have connected South Carolina coach Dawn Staley, a Philadelphia native, to the group.
"League sources believe Philadelphia has potential as an eventual expansion city, but it would likely mean the involvement of the 76ers — both financially and in terms of an arena. Though 76ers owners Josh Harris and David Blitzer have bought a number of franchises outside of the Sixers, anything linking the 76ers ownership group to a WNBA expansion franchise would be premature, a source said."
Interesting. It's true that a number of WNBA franchises have close ties to local NBA franchises: there are currently six "sister" franchises, and there used to be seven others. Five sister franchises (Liberty, Fever, Lynx, Mercury, Mystics) currently share ownership with NBA organizations; the Sparks are the sixth.
It would make sense at face value for Harris Blitzer Sports & Entertainment to be interested in a WNBA team as they are constantly looking to add new sports franchises to their portfolio (see: New York Mets, Chelsea FC, Real Salt Lake, and more), but there are obviously numerous factors on their end to take into account.
The push for a team in Philly has been underway for some time now. In March of last year, Delaware County native and current WNBA star Natasha Cloud detailed the efforts:
"It's not necessarily a secret - that's what I was told - we are trying to get a Philly team. It has been in the works for a year and a half. Put a little pressure, not only on the city, but on the [WNBA], too. Our thing - for us to progress, our league needs to expand. We have to have more than 144 jobs. [...] Listen, it's in the works. I'm trying my damndest to bring a team back to Philly."
I can't think of a better city for a new WNBA team than Philly. This city goes absolutely nuts for a good basketball team.
Make it happen.