Warriors to Pay Record $50M to Secure WNBA Expansion Team

The Golden State Warriors have agreed to pay a record $50 million expansion fee to bring a WNBA team to the Bay Area, according to multiple people familiar with the terms.

The money will be paid over the course of 10 years, according to the people, who were granted anonymity because the details are private.

More from

The WNBA announced Thursday morning that it had approved the Warriors ownership group, led by Joe Lacob and Peter Guber, to lead its first expansion since 2008. The new team, which does not yet have a name, will play in San Francisco’s Chase Center, the Warriors’ $1.4 billion arena, starting in 2025. Its practice facility and headquarters will be the Warriors’ Oakland Facility, which served the same role for the NBA team from 1997-2019.

Representatives for the WNBA and the Warriors declined to comment on the financial specifics.

About half of the current 12 WNBA teams are owned by NBA owners, typically in the same city, while the others are independently owned. Lacob recently told ESPN that his group’s deep experience in the business of basketball should benefit the new franchise immediately. The Warriors are worth $7.56 billion, according to Sportico’s rankings, the most valuable franchise in the NBA.

“I believe we’ll have the No. 1 revenue of any WNBA team,” Lacob said. “And I think we can do very, very well as a business because we know how to do this. We have all the facilities, and we can bring sponsor dollars to the team and ultimately to the league that will help the league in a big way.”

The WNBA’s expansion comes amid a surge in investment in professional women’s sports. NWSL teams were selling for about $2 million just a few years ago; the average team is now worth $66 million, according to Sportico numbers released this week. The league’s two newest expansion teams—in the Bay Area and Boston—each committed to paying a record expansion fee of $53 million.

Expansion fees are also often accompanied by a commitment to spend in other ways. The Bay Area NWSL team, which is primarily backed by private equity giant Sixth Street, committed to a topline number of $125 million. That includes the $53 million expansion fee, roughly $40 million for a practice facility and another $32 million to bolster the club’s balance sheet.

While the WNBA hasn’t expanded in more than decade, it has brought on investors. Early last year the league raised $75 million from a group that included Nike Inc., Laurene Powell Jobs, former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, Columbus Crew and Cleveland Browns co-owner Dee Haslam, and Linda Henry, co-owner of the Boston Red Sox and the Liverpool FC. That investment, which was not in any specific team, valued the league and all of its franchises at $1 billion, according to people familiar with the terms.

Earlier this year, the Seattle Storm raised money at a league record $130 million valuation, and the Chicago Sky raised at an $85 million valuation, the second highest in league history.

On Thursday, Phoenix Mercury owner Mat Ishbia announced his plans to spend $100 million on a new project that would serve as the practice facility for the WNBA team, and headquarters for both the Mercury and the NBA's Suns.

The WNBA finals begin Sunday. It’s a showdown between the league’s two best regular-season teams, the Las Vegas Aces and New York Liberty.

(This article has been updated in the headline and first two paragraphs to clarify terms of the payment.)

Best of

Click here to read the full article.