WNBA pauses expansion to Portland after discussion breakdown with millionaire Kirk Brown

WNBA Commissioner Cathy Engelbert announces an expansion franchise for the San Francisco Bay Area at Chase Center in San Francisco, Thursday, Oct. 5, 2023. The team will begin play in the 2025 season. (AP Photo/Eric Risberg)
The WNBA was rumored to add Portland as the 14th team in the league. Last month, commissioner Cathy Engelbert spoke in San Francisco after announcing an expansion team in the city. (AP Photo/Eric Risberg)

Portland, once considered the front-runner to become the 14th team in the WNBA, will have to wait a little longer for its franchise, according to a letter from WNBA commissioner Cathy Engelbert to U.S. Sen. Ron Wyden obtained by The Oregonian. The discussions between the league and millionaire Kirk Brown broke down, and now the plans to bring a team to the city are paused.

According to The Oregonian, a team practice facility was a major point and the plans fell apart "at the 11th hour." Engelbert said in the letter Moda Center renovations caused the league to pause plans to bring a franchise to Portland because the timing of improvements coincided with the WNBA season schedule. The NBA's Portland Trail Blazers play at the Moda Center.

Representatives of Brown did not respond to The Oregonian's questions Wednesday.

A year ago, Brown said he planned to bring the WNBA to the city. Engelbert met with Brown, Wyden and leaders of the major Oregon professional and collegiate teams in February.

This wouldn't have been Portland's first time with a WNBA team — the Portland Fire played for three seasons until it shuttered in 2002. Sources told The Oregonian the WNBA expansion fee was $50 million.

There was so much optimism surrounding Portland's eventual announcement that many expected the news to happen just a month after San Francisco was awarded the WNBA's 13th franchise. On Oct. 5, Engelbert revealed that play in the Bay Area would begin in 2025.

The commissioner also hinted at future expansion in the near future. Details, such as use of the Moda Center, were considered some of the final points that needed to be tied up.

It remains to be seen if Brown or someone else will restart or take up the conversation about Portland joining the WNBA.