It’s starting to look like professional basketball will soon return to Oakland, and to the funky basketball paradise that is Oakland Arena (formerly Oracle Arena). No, the Golden State Warriors aren’t coming back, at least not anytime soon. But the city might be getting an expansion WNBA team, and there isn’t a city in the country that would be a better fit.
The African American Sports and Entertainment Group (AASEG) has been seeking to secure a 50% stake in the Oakland Coliseum Complex, with their proposal heavily featuring the idea of bringing a WNBA team to the city. In June, the Oakland city council rules committee voted to advance the group’s term sheet to a full city council vote.
According to a report from Janis Hashe of the East Bay Express, AASEG is planning on adding a WNBA team that has a “woman-led ownership group.” The organization has already sent a bid to the league, with spokesperson Ray Bobbitt saying that “If everything falls into place perfectly, the goal would be to have a team playing next year,” while admitting that it could take a bit longer than that (it almost surely would).
With surging ratings and popularity over the last few years, the WNBA has openly been starting to consider expansion from the current 12-team format. While some executives have been hesitant, due to the potential loss in revenue, players have been outwardly supportive of expansion. With limited roster sizes and teams, the league only has 144 players, which means that even first-round picks are often waived during — or even before — their rookie seasons.
The AASEG proposal noted that the Bay Area market has more WNBA fans than the markets for eight of the league’s current teams. It certainly feels like a market tailor-made for a WNBA team.
Hashe quotes Oakland Vice Mayor Rebecca Kaplan as saying, via text, “Oakland has the location, history and demographics to support a highly successful WNBA team, a great fan base and a welcoming community. We also have an available basketball arena that’s easy to get to from throughout the greater region.”
It’s felt like a sure thing for a while now that the Warriors ownership group would eventually add a WNBA team. Co-Executive Chairman and CEO Joe Lacob founded a women’s professional basketball team in San Jose in the 1990s, and outgoing President Rick Welts was one of the driving forces behind the inception of the WNBA when he was an employee with the NBA.
But, with the Warriors dynasty and the creation of Chase Center, the organization hasn’t gotten around to adding a WNBA team yet, and it seems that AASEG might jump in front of them. Or who knows, maybe we’ll get a team in Oakland and one in San Francisco as well. I wouldn’t complain.
Either way, it looks like we’ll soon have the WNBA in the Bay Area, and professional hoops back at Roaracle. And both of those things are simply marvelous.