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WNBA expands into Canada with new franchise in Toronto

Featured image credit: Coca-Cola Coliseum

The Women’s National Basketball Association (WNBA) has announced today (Thursday) that a new franchise will launch in Toronto in 2026, becoming the league’s first team outside of the US.

The team will play its home games at the Coca-Cola Coliseum at Exhibition Place in downtown Toronto. The arena has a capacity of 8,500 for basketball and is also used for ice hockey, hosting games played by the American Hockey League’s Toronto Marlies.

Additional games may also be played at Scotiabank Arena, home of the NBA’s Toronto Raptors and NHL’s Toronto Maple Leafs, and other venues across Canada. The as-yet-unnamed team has also committed to building a state-of-the-art practice facility.

The franchise will be owned and operated by Kilmer Sports Ventures, whose chairman Larry Tanenbaum is the chairman of Maple Leaf Sports & Entertainment, which owns the Raptors and Maple Leafs. Kilmer Sports Ventures has paid $50m (£39m/€46m) for the team.

WNBA commissioner Cathy Engelbert said: “Bringing a WNBA team to Toronto represents an important milestone for our league as we continue to expand both domestically and outside the United States.

“With Larry Tanenbaum’s distinguished record of leading successful sports franchises and Toronto’s appeal as a dynamic, diverse city that cares deeply about the game of basketball, we are confident that this new team will thrive as a first-class WNBA organisation and become a great source of inspiration and support for the Toronto-area community and across Canada.”

Tanenbaum added: “Today is a game-changing day not only for women’s basketball but also for sports in Canada. This franchise will be Canada’s team, and we are so excited to unite the country and inspire pride and passion in fans from coast to coast.”

Today’s announcement comes after the WNBA in October awarded an expansion franchise to the Golden State Warriors, with the new outfit to begin play in 2025 at the NBA team’s home arena, Chase Center. That marked the first new WNBA franchise announcement since 2008, and the addition of the Toronto franchise will bring the league up to 14 teams by 2026.

Earlier this month, the WNBA staged only its second ever game in Canada as the Los Angeles Sparks and Seattle Storm faced off in a pre-season game at Rogers Place in Edmonton. Scotiabank Arena hosted the league’s first game in Canada last year as the Chicago Sky defeated the Minnesota Lynx in front of a sold-out crowd.

Last month, plans were announced for the Dallas Wings to relocate from Arlington to a larger arena in downtown Dallas amid the growth patterns reported by both the team and the WNBA as a whole.

City of Dallas Council members approved a 15-year, $19m use agreement for the Wings to play in the Kay Bailey Hutchison Convention Center Dallas Memorial Arena, beginning in 2026. The agreement is pending approval from the WNBA.