What to know about the two bids to bring the WNBA to the Bay Area

The Bay Area does not have a single professional women’s sports team. Two groups — one based in Oakland, one in San Francisco — are trying to bring a WNBA team into the fold, and the league plans to find out where it will go for its 2024 expansion by the end of the year.

The league has repeatedly declared its intention to expand for the first time since 2008, when Atlanta joined. Commissioner Cathy Engelbert and league officials have been cautious in their review of different markets, but she said ahead of the All-Star Game in July that possible locations had been narrowed down to around 15.

“I would love it in 24, but I’m probably looking at that kind of schedule, and again, a lot of cities are interested,” Engelbert told reporters at the All-Star Game. “That’s the good news, and now we need to find the right ownership groups with the right commitment and financial wherewithal to really commit to building a WNBA team in their city.”

No deadline has been made public for groups to submit an ownership bid, although Engelbert said in June that she hoped to identify teams by the end of this year.

Oakland’s bid is being made by the African American Sports and Entertainment Group, which is led by former WNBA forward Alana Beard. The group asked the city to buy the rights to the Coliseum complex, where the Golden State Warriors played before moving to San Francisco.

AASEG founder and president Ray Bobbitt said a WNBA team would be the arena’s primary tenant. The complex is half-owned by Alameda County, though it agreed to sell it to the Oakland Athletics for $85 million in 2019. The state Department of Housing and Community Development has investigated the legality of this sale.

AASEG is majority black-owned and, along with Beard, has a former player’s perspective.

In May, Seattle Storm forward Sue Bird pleaded for a Bay Area team.

“I would choose the Bay Area, San Francisco probably,” Bird said. “I think Portland would be a good choice. I hear rumors and whispers about interest from Toronto, and I actually hear good things about this city.

AASEG responded on Twitter, saying, “Oakland would easily have the strongest fan base in the country. Plus, we already have a motivated ownership group and city officials are 100% committed.”

Oakland Vice Mayor Rebecca Kaplan has been at the forefront of civic advocacy.

“Our community in the Bay Area values ​​social justice,” she told Forbes in 2021. “It values ​​equality and women’s rights. It upholds the principle that black lives matter and leadership , the leadership of black women, is important.”

The Warriors are the other main player. They have twice attempted to bring a WNBA team to the Bay Area and now would like to bring one to play at Chase Center alongside the Warriors.

“I think I could make a really good pitch for why the Warriors would be the perfect place for a Bay Area team,” said Warriors adviser Rick Welts, the team’s former president who helped launch the WNBA. “I’m not exactly objective. I know the interest and the passion within this organization. But there is no freebie here. It should be deserved. »

Warriors majority owner Joe Lacob is the former owner of the San Jose Lasers, a member of the last major women’s basketball league before the WNBA, the American Basketball League.

During the NBA Finals, commissioner Adam Silver said he was “supportive” of the Bay Area hosting a WNBA team.

However, owning the NBA will not automatically give an advantage over an independent group.

“I think it will be on the merits,” Welts said. “Our initial model was that it’s all NBA teams (that get WNBA franchises). We’ve done a lot of things right and a lot of things wrong, and we’ve found that’s not always the best place to host a (new WNBA team) because sometimes it’s not the top priority of this (NBA) organization.Sometimes it’s, in places like Phoenix, which have continued to thrive.

According to Athletic, the average franchise value is around $43 million and the expansion fee would be $15-20 million.

All hopeful WNBA expansion groups must submit a proposal and highlight arena plans and financial support. The Warriors and AASEG have arenas as centerpieces of their offerings. Bobbitt’s group assured the WNBA that they would be prioritized in the arena to avoid being moved during the NBA playoffs, as has happened in the past.

Expansion has been a hot issue for years in the WNBA. With only 144 spots available on the roster – and around 137 filled this season due to salary restrictions – the league is harder to reach. Rookies and young players have traditionally struggled to make rosters.

Engelbert had previously estimated it would take 18-24 months to identify a market and prepare the group for its inaugural season, so time is running out for that to happen by the 2024 season.

Marisa Ingemi is a staff writer for the San Francisco Chronicle. Email: marisa.ingemi@sfchronicle.com

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