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WNBA enlargement gained’t meet year-end time-frame commissioner had hoped for – The Athletic

The WNBA won’t meet its year-end timeline of naming a brand new enlargement crew, as commissioner Cathy Engelbert had beforehand stated she hoped to do, however the league continues to evaluate the place its subsequent franchise will probably be and which possession group will run it.

The league has been clear about its hope so as to add a minimum of one new franchise to the combination. The WNBA at the moment has 12 groups, and it has not added an enlargement franchise for the reason that Atlanta Dream in 2008. Earlier this 12 months, The Athletic recognized six cities as viable options for the league.

“We’re now engaged within the onerous work of trying on the cities that we’ve form of narrowed to at this level,” Engelbert informed The Athletic in a cellphone interview this week, “and dealing with completely different investor teams, completely different possession teams, on what would the world scenario be? Observe amenities? How do you consider season ticket holders? How do you consider the company sponsorship that you would usher in to the crew? So we’re evaluating all that now in a handful of cities. The onerous work on that does occur within the offseason. So we’re actually into that now.”

Engelbert stated the league is trying critically at 10 possession teams, down from what she stated have been roughly 20 originally of the league’s course of. She famous the league is in no hurry to determine a brand new crew and metropolis.

The WNBA has already had a really busy 12 months. It completed off a $75 million capital increase in February and elevated its 2023 season to a 40-game schedule, 4 greater than an already record-high 36 final season.

Engelbert has additionally been busy helping with the total hands-on effort to deliver Brittney Griner again to the US from Russia, the place Griner spent 9 months detained in what the U.S. described as an illegal imprisonment. Griner was released and introduced dwelling final week.

With all of that now over, the league will focus full-bore on enlargement.

“We’ve acquired an entire course of,” Engelbert stated. “We’ve acquired knowledge, we’ve acquired attention-grabbing discussions occurring however it’s not one thing we’re going to hurry it to only to say we develop. I’ve informed so many enterprise leaders this, they usually all appear to agree with me — like I’m a giant, large believer in let’s rework the economics after which we’ll develop, not develop after which hope that economics rework. We wish to deliver new house owners in which might be going to achieve success in standing up a franchise that may compete for a championship. So I’m not in a rush, however yeah, would we wish to get it accomplished within the subsequent few years? Completely.”

The brand new crew, wherever will probably be, is unlikely to start play till the 2025 season on the earliest.

Engelbert cautioned that there must be sufficient time to have an enlargement draft and free company, and to present the league’s coaches and executives time to arrange. She has stated that it could take roughly 18 to 24 months to go from naming a brand new crew to having it able to play in its debut season. There was perception earlier this 12 months {that a} new crew might start play for the 2024 season.

“Look, if somebody referred to as me tomorrow and stated, ‘Right here’s a verify, and we’re able to go. And now we have the monetary mannequin prepared. And right here’s our company sponsors, and we have already got 1000’s of season ticket holders; can we get it accomplished for ’24?’ Yeah,” she stated. “However I’m simply making an attempt to be extra practical. And I most likely stated that eight (to) 12 months in the past and, once more, COVID put us completely behind on all of this. I feel we’d be in a greater place. We raised the capital in February, that we’re now deploying on the transformation and rising the league. I wouldn’t name it a delay.

“Excellent news is, now we have a ton of curiosity from loads of cities. I didn’t assume we’d have that a lot curiosity. And now that now we have a lot curiosity, we actually wish to be considerate in how we take a look at the place we’re going to be for the following — as a result of it is a long-term dedication from that possession group and the league.”

The league’s enlargement course of has made some strides, except for narrowing down its discipline. Engelbert confirmed that she has mentioned enlargement price numbers with some possession teams.

She has leaned on the WNBA’s valuation from its capital increase, which valued the league at $475 million, in response to sources, as a baseline for a way a lot a brand new crew might price, although she stated there’s a “range of affordable estimates on what a franchise could be value.” Engelbert additionally has historical past in valuations throughout her time at Deloitte, earlier than she took over on the WNBA. The league, she stated, can be centered on not simply making certain {that a} new possession group might pay the enlargement price but in addition that the brand new franchise could be well-capitalized and will run with out problem.

(Picture of Cathy Engelbert: Ethan Miller / Getty Photos)

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