WNBA selects Toronto as Canada’s 1st franchise in women’s pro league

Click to play video: 'WNBA franchise awarded to Toronto, 1st outside of U.S.'
WNBA franchise awarded to Toronto, 1st outside of U.S.
WATCH: WNBA franchise awarded to Toronto, 1st outside of US – May 23, 2024

Toronto will be home to Canada’s first Women’s National Basketball Association (WNBA) team, the league officially announced Thursday.

Kilmer Sports Ventures, headed by Toronto businessman Larry Tanenbaum, was awarded the league’s 14th franchise. The as-yet-unnamed team will begin to play in May 2026.

“This team is Canada’s team,” Tannenbaum said at a news conference Thursday.

“Our team will complete the pathway for women in this country.… They can see that the sport they play as girls and as women is just as important and worth investing in, because the more we all recognize value and potential of women’s sports, the closer we get to a more equitable future in the world of sports.”

Click to play video: 'WNBA considering launching new team in Toronto: report'
WNBA considering launching new team in Toronto: report

Kilmer is paying $115 million for the team, The Associated Press reported Thursday. Toronto’s franchise will follow the league’s 13th, the Golden State Valkyries, which is set to start play next year.

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Canada has hosted sold-out WNBA pre-season games at Toronto’s Scotiabank Arena in 2023, and Edmonton’s Rogers Place on May 4. But Toronto’s team will start play at the 8,700-seat Coca-Cola Coliseum at Exhibition Place.

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It will have the ability to play in Scotiabank Arena on occasion, and is planned to play some games in Montreal and Vancouver.

Opened in 1921, Coca-Cola Coliseum also is the home of the American Hockey League’s Toronto Marlies – owned by Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment, of which Tanenbaum is the chairman and minority owner.

Click to play video: 'WNBA game in Canada one part of the rise of women’s sports'
WNBA game in Canada one part of the rise of women’s sports

Kilmer Sports Ventures, created as a stand-alone company to operate the team, has committed to building a practice facility, but until that is ready, it will train at the University of Toronto’s Goldring Centre for High Performance Sport.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, who was also at Thursday’s event alongside WNBA commissioner Cathy Engelbert and other officials, praised the announcement.

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“For too long, women’s sports have been underreported, underfunded and underappreciated. But that era is over,” he said.

“That era is over because people, and Canadians especially, want to watch the most talented women in the world compete at the highest level.”

— with files from The Canadian Press and The Associated Press

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