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Toronto awarded WNBA expansion team to begin play in 2026


Women’s professional basketball is coming to Toronto.

Kilmer Sports, headed by Toronto billionaire Larry Tannenbaum, has secured an expansion franchise with the Women’s National Basketball Association, CBC Sports has learned.

The announcement is expected on May 23 in Toronto, with the team starting play in May 2026, according to four people with knowledge of the deal but who were not authorized to talk about it.

The WNBA has not confirmed Toronto’s move.

“We continue to engage in productive conversations with interested ownership groups in a number of markets, and granting any expansion teams requires a vote of the WNBA and NBA Board of Directors,” the league said.

Tannenbaum is a minority owner and chairman of the sports giant Maple Leafs Sports and Entertainment, which owns the Maple Leafs, Raptors, TFC, Argos and Marlies.

The 79-year-old originally sought to pursue the expansion team through MLSE, but was rebuffed by other board members.

A man presents a ring to a player during a ceremony.
Larry Tannenbaum, left, presents a ring to Kyle Lowry in 2019 to celebrate the Toronto Raptors’ NBA championship.(Frank Gunn/The Canadian Press)

The league recently expanded to 13 teams, with San Francisco-based Golden State starting play next year, and commissioner Cathy Engelbert said in April that Toronto was among the cities considered for a 14th team.

Courtney Glenn, vice president of public affairs and communications for The Kilmer Group, said in a statement that the organization “does not have an update at this time.”

A WNBA spokesperson said: “We continue to engage in productive conversations with interested ownership groups in a number of markets but have no news to report at this time.”

watched What the Toronto WNBA team means to the city, players and fans:

Toronto awarded WNBA expansion team to begin play in 2026

Toronto gets a WNBA team. What it means for the city, the players and the fans

Women’s professional basketball will come to Toronto in May 2026. CBC Sports has learned that Kilmer Sports, headed by Toronto billionaire Larry Tannenbaum, has been awarded an expansion franchise with the Women’s National Basketball Association.

Mayor Olivia Chao said in a television interview on Friday that she is aware of a movement in Toronto to create a women’s basketball team.

“Wait. Hopefully there will be something later,” Zhao said in an interview with local news channel CP24. “Basketball, it’s great, and it’s time to have role models.

“I hope there will be good news soon and I can’t wait for that to happen.”

A source said the team will play at the Coca-Cola Coliseum, an 8,000-seat arena at CNE Stadium in Toronto that is home to the Marlies and where the Toronto Women’s Professional Hockey League franchise is currently playing its first playoff series.

Basketball player signing autographs.
Canadian Bridget Carlton greets fans after the Minnesota Lynx’ pre-season game against the Chicago Sky in Toronto last May.(Chris Young/The Canadian Press)

Professional women’s sports have seen a rise in Canada with the formation of the PWHL which has two other Canadian franchises in Ottawa and Montreal, as well as a new women’s soccer league that is expected to begin play in 2025.

A year ago, Toronto’s Scotiabank Arena sold out for Canada’s first pre-season game, and on Saturday, more than 16,000 tickets were sold for a game at Edmonton’s Rogers Place.

The league recently held its amateur draft, where NCAA star Caitlin Clark was taken first overall to the Indiana Fever.

Kilmer Sports Inc. A new arm of Tanenbaum’s Kilmer Group, it has appointed former European football executive Ivan Gazidis to lead the new group. Teresa Resch is also part of the new organization after leaving her job with the Raptors as vice president of basketball operations.

watched How sports fans are reacting to a potential Toronto WNBA expansion team:

Toronto awarded WNBA expansion team to begin play in 2026

How sports fans are reacting to Toronto’s WNBA expansion team

Kilmer Sports, headed by Toronto billionaire Larry Tannenbaum, has secured an expansion franchise with the WNBA, CBC Sports has learned. An official announcement is scheduled for May 23 and the team is expected to begin play in 2026. Ali Chiasson spoke to excited Toronto residents outside Scotiabank Stadium.



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