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May 23, 2024
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May 23, 2024

Toronto's WNBA Team: Your Complete Guide!

In a groundbreaking move, the WNBA announced its expansion into Canada with the introduction of a team in Toronto. This marks the league's first venture outside of the United States and is set to debut in 2026 as the 14th franchise.

Photo by Paul Silvan on Unsplash 

The Announcement Broken Down 

May 23rd is now etched in the annals of women's sports history, as Toronto Mayor Olive Chow officially proclaimed it "WNBA Day" in the city. Reflecting on her own passion for the game during her teenage years, Mayor Chow emphasized the team's potential to unite communities and inspire future generations. Accompanying Toronto's Mayor were Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, Ontario Premier Doug Ford, renowned rapper Drake, and Toronto Raptors star Scottie Barnes.

Creating the Team

Under the ownership and operation of Kilmer Sports Ventures, headed by Chairman Larry Tanenbaum, a seasoned veteran with three decades of experience in building championship-caliber teams, the Toronto team is poised for success. Tanenbaum's leadership demonstrated notably through the NBA's Toronto Raptors' 2019 championship win, instills confidence in the team's promising future.

According to sources close to ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski, the WNBA Board of Governors unanimously voted 13-0, while the NBA Board of Governors voted 29-1 in favour of approving the new WNBA franchise in Toronto.

The team is currently without a name, as they are meticulously considering their options. According to Tanenbaum, they are actively seeking public input to ensure the chosen name resonates with fans and reflects the spirit of the team.

What Venue Will Host the Toronto WNBA Team?

The team will make the 8,700-seat Coca-Cola Coliseum their home base. Located at Exhibition Place in downtown Toronto, this arena is also the proud host of the AHL's Toronto Marlies. It boasts a storied history of hosting notable events, such as the inaugural games and playoffs of the Professional Women's Hockey League's (PWHL) Toronto team. 

Tanenbaum emphasized in an official press release from the WNBA,

"This franchise will be Canada's team," adding, "We will play games in Vancouver and Montreal throughout the season, uniting the country behind our franchise and inspiring pride and passion in fans from coast to coast."

Photo by WNBA

More From The WNBA and Canada 

Canada has embraced the WNBA wholeheartedly, as demonstrated by the sold-out pre-season games hosted at Scotiabank Arena in 2023 and Edmonton's Rogers Place on May 4th. This season, the WNBA features four talented Canadians: Aaliyah Edwards from Kingston, Ont. representing the Washington Mystics, Bridget Carleton hailing from Chatham, Ont. playing for the Minnesota Lynx, Laeticia Amihere from Milton, Ont. representing the Atlanta Dream, and Hamilton's own Kia Nurse proudly wearing the colours of the Los Angeles Sparks.

WNBA Breaking Records 

The current season has seen remarkable achievements surpassing those of previous years, with new records being set. Much of this success is attributed to the rising star Caitlin Clark, whose popularity has soared since her college basketball days and continued to grow as she transitioned to the WNBA after being drafted.

During the WNBA draft, records began to tumble. The 2024 edition of the event shattered previous viewership records, with an average of 2.45 million fans tuning in to ESPN, peaking at 3.09 million. This far surpassed the previous high set in 2004 when Diana Taurasi was selected No. 1 overall out of UConn, with an average of 601,000 viewers.

Clark's entrance into the season on May 14 marked a significant moment, shattering ESPN's WNBA viewership records. The Indiana Fever newcomer impressed with a 20-point performance, captivating an audience of 2.1 million fans across ESPN2, ESPN+, and Disney+. This game marked the highest viewership for any WNBA game on an ESPN platform to date. The matchup between the Fever and the Sun reached its peak at 2.3 million viewers.

Photo by WNBA 

The New York Liberty, a highly regarded and skilled team, faced off against the Indiana Fever, featuring the highly followed Caitlin Clark, on May 21. This matchup made history as the most-viewed WNBA game ever aired on ABC, drawing an average viewership of 1.71 million and reaching a peak of 1.96 million.

This game isn't the only historic moment of the day. It was part of a doubleheader with the Las Vegas Aces and the Los Angeles Sparks squaring off in the second match. This tandem of games set a new record for the most-viewed opening weekend doubleheader on ABC in WNBA history. The weekend doubleheader drew an average viewership of 1.5 million, marking a remarkable 143% increase from ABC's 2023 season average.

Investing in the WNBA

The WNBA is experiencing a perfect storm of success, with increased star power, visibility, and brand investments. Leading the charge is Kim Kardashian's SKIMS line, now the official underwear of the league, with several WNBA players serving as brand ambassadors. Additionally, A'ja Wilson of the Las Vegas Aces has become the face of Gatorade for the WNBA.

Major brands like Nike are offering more signature shoe deals for women, while commercials featuring WNBA players from State Farm and CarMax contribute to cross-promotion efforts, bolstering the league's positive image. These partnerships are vital for maintaining momentum and enthusiasm around the WNBA.

The impact is evident in record viewership during the league's opening week and significant sponsorship deals, such as each Las Vegas Aces player receiving a $100,000 sponsorship from the Las Vegas Tourism Bureau (currently under WNBA investigation). Despite the scrutiny, it demonstrates corporations' growing recognition of the league's value.

This surge in support coincides with a remarkable level of play, with rookies like Caitlin Clark drawing widespread attention and league veterans continually raising the bar. Beyond the court, players like Angel Reese sharing the stage with music icon Megan Thee Stallion showcase the far-reaching influence of big business on various fronts within the WNBA.

As we embark on this season, it's merely the beginning of an exciting journey with plenty more in store. One can't help but speculate on the remarkable strides the professional league will have made by 2026, especially with Toronto stepping onto the court. 

Buying Tickets 

Toronto basketball fans can now secure their seats for an exciting season of WNBA action. Season ticket reservations are open, allowing enthusiasts to reserve their spots through the official WNBA Toronto website: https://www.wnba.com/toronto

By placing a deposit, fans can join the WNBA Toronto Season Seat Wait List. A one-time non-refundable deposit of $100 per seat guarantees your place on the list. Secure your spot today and gain priority access to the prime seat locations at Coca-Cola Coliseum once they become available!

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