Potential WNBA expansion team for Portland shelved for now
Portland will not be the next city to welcome a WNBA team. That’s because of concerns with the Moda Center’s construction schedule, the head of the WNBA said in a letter Wednesday to Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Oregon.
Last month WNBA Commissioner Cathy Engelbert announced San Francisco would be awarded a team starting in the 2025 season. That would bring the league up to 13 teams, and Engelbert said at the time that the goal is to grow to 14 teams by 2025. She listed Portland as one of the cities still in the running.
But in her letter to Wyden, Engelbert noted the possible renovation of the anticipated home of a potential Portland WNBA team, the Moda Center. Construction is expected to take place over two summers, which is when the WNBA has its season.
Engelbert wrote that “consideration of a WNBA franchise for Portland will be deferred for now until the timing and scope of the arena improvements are settled.”
Earlier this year, Engelbert visited Northeast Portland’s women’s sports bar, The Sports Bra, for an event with local sports leaders and politicians, including Wyden. At that event, Engelbert said that, when choosing a city, the league must make sure financial backing, an owner, corporate sponsors and a dedicated place for the team to play are in order.
Arena space has been an issue for the league in the past. During the 2021 semifinals, the Phoenix Mercury were displacedfrom that team’s home arena, which was also hosting Disney on Ice that summer. TheLos Angeles Sparks were booted from their home arena for games during the 2019 playoffs, and the Washington Mystics met a similar fate in the 2018 playoffs.
Previously, Portland hosted a WNBA team for three seasons starting in 2000, but the franchise dissolved in 2002. From 2002 through 2010, the WNBA contracted from 16 teams to the current dozen.
Over that time, women’s basketball has grown in popularity, and fans have been asking for expansion. The 2023 regular season had the most TV viewers in more than two decades, and the league had the highest attendance in over a dozen years, according to the WNBA.