The WNBA Championship has ended its 2022 season, but the offseason could be very interesting for Portland. The league has a shortlist of cities that could be ready for expansion by 2024, and Portland is on that list.
OPB’s Paul Marshall sat down with Rachel Bachman of The Wall Street Journal to talk about the WNBA’s arrival in Portland once again.
Paul Marshall: When is the WNBA trying to expand?
Rachel Bachman: Commissioner Kathy Engelbert did not specify some kind of absolute timeframe, but said the league could expand with up to two teams by 2024.
Marshall: There is an effort to bring a team to Portland and there is a Northwest businessman active in the field, Kirk Brown. What do we know about Kirk?
Backman: We know he probably has enough money to buy and support a WNBA team. Kirk has reportedly made more than $1 billion of his money by co-founding the company now called Zoom Info.
A Brown representative confirmed that Brown is interested in purchasing the WNBA franchise.
This is a huge start, historically, even – and when I say historically in professional women’s sports, this is very recent, talking about the last two decades – historically, it was millionaires who launched these teams and often didn’t have the resources to plow the funding needed to keep what It is basically a sports startup.
The fact that there are now billionaires coming into the women’s sports space is a really good sign for women’s sports in general because most of them lose money initially. Those who buy should understand that a lot of investment is necessary in the beginning.
Marshall: Women’s sports had an impact on Portland’s economy. What do you think the WNBA franchise would be in the mix for Portland?
Backman: In general, sports franchises do not necessarily have significant impacts on their economies.
There are exceptions, quite often where people spend their money changes. I know this isn’t an interesting answer for Portland.
I think what Portland did was show an infrastructure — and not just Portland, Oregon — it showed an infrastructure and culture to support women’s sports in general.
I would attribute it to the strong University of Portland football teams in the ’90s where women were selling their pitches. Most recently, she joined the Oregon and Oregon women’s basketball teams, which had a great presence and great performances on the court.
All of these things play a role in people’s willingness to spend money on women’s sports, which is ultimately very important to get and support the franchise in the long run.
Marshall: This isn’t my first Portland tour with a WNBA team. So how different is the league now than it was back then when Portland had a team 20 years ago. Are they better prepared?
Backman: yes. First and foremost, the league has a proven track record. She is now 26 years old, instead of a few years ago when the Portland Fire broke out.
The WNBA received what it said was its largest single capital investment in a women’s sports league, $75 million earlier this year from a group of investors.
A number of owners spend millions to build training facilities for women only,
This has never happened before and this reflects a kind of optimism but also realism from those owners who believe these teams will exist.
These tournaments will exist and you will make money from them. These assets are those assets that they expect to appreciate.
Marshall: There was a lot of public support for bringing the WNBA team to Portland. Oregon Senator Ron Wyden has written a letter. NBA Commissioner Adam Silver and WBA Commissioner Kathy Engelbert responded to Ron Wyden’s letter. What’s Next?
Backman: I expect the league to work hard on narrowing its focus to include potential expansion teams and expansion cities.
If it follows the schedule that’s been set, I think in the coming months these cities will get more contact from the league and we’ll find out if they’re likely to be in or out.
If they exist, they would go to great lengths to scope things like the number of season ticket holders, recruit corporate sponsors and secure a team lease.