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WNBA expansion team in San Francisco Bay Area will begin play in 2025

The WNBA is coming to the San Francisco Bay Area with its first expansion franchise since 2008, the league announced Thursday.

The ownership of the NBA’s Golden State Warriors was awarded the as yet unnamed team, which will become the league’s 13th franchise and begin play in 2025.

“We are thrilled about expanding to the Bay Area and bringing the WNBA to a region with passionate basketball fans and a strong history of supporting women’s basketball,” Commissioner Cathy Engelbert said in a statement. “[Warriors co-executive chairman and CEO] Joe Lacob, [co-executive chairman] Peter Guber and their leadership team know how to build and operate a world-class organization, as witnessed by the immense success the Warriors’ franchise has enjoyed from both a business and basketball perspective over the last decade. Their interest in joining the WNBA family is yet another sign of the league’s growth potential.”

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In a news conference Thursday, Engelbert said the league’s “goal is to have a 14th team by 2025 as well” and said discussions are underway with several cities.

Lacob and Guber will own and operate the new team, which will play its home games at Chase Center in San Francisco, which is also the home of the Warriors. Golden State’s team facility in Oakland, which served as the Warriors’ practice location and housed the team’s front office from 1997 to 2019, will be the WNBA team’s headquarters.

The new squad will be the first added since the Atlanta Dream joined the league 15 years ago.

The WNBA’s television deal with ESPN is set to expire after the 2025 season, and the league expects the value of its next deal to significantly increase. The league just completed its most-watched regular season in 21 years; viewership on ABC, CBS, ESPN and ESPN2 was up 21 percent. Adding franchises will boost the value of the league’s next TV deal even more — particularly a new team in a market such as San Francisco-Oakland-San Jose, the 10th largest in the country, per Nielsen. A richer media contract would have a major impact on league finances and could affect anything from player salaries to travel accommodations.

Engelbert had previously said the WNBA’s goal was to add two franchises and that it would take 18 months to get a team on the court after the league decided on a city.

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“There’s this moment over the next three to five years of women’s sports where we’re going to set the course for the next 30 or 40 years,” Engelbert told The Washington Post in June. “But it’s the next three to five years that’s going to determine a long way out, as far as, ‘Can we be the first women’s sports property to really get a meaningful media rights deal?’ Clearly the more cities you’re in … the more viewership you’ll have and the more that would be valued in a media model.”

The WNBA Finals start Sunday with the top-seeded Las Vegas Aces hosting the second-seeded New York Liberty to begin a best-of-five series. The league recently completed a 40-game regular season, its longest in history.

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