BREAKING NEWS: New WNBA Toronto team expected to be announced May 23

May 17, 2024 | Headlines, Sports

Toronto exuded nothing but passion and enthusiasm on May 13, 2023, for hosting the WNBA preseason game between the Minnesota Lynx and the Chicago Sky with a boisterous crowd shaking a Scotiabank Arena packed to the rafters.

Victor Lapeña, the Women’s Canada basketball coach, was in the thick of it, enjoying the game only as a 48-year-old kid would do among those 20,000 crazed fans.

“Sold out. There wasn’t even a free seat. It was amazing,” he said.

Toronto and Canada were kind of making a statement to claim a WNBA team, one that Edmonton reiterated on May 4, 2024, with about 16,000 fans packing the Rogers Place in the preseason game between the Seattle Storm and the Los Angeles Sparks in Edmonton.

“Women’s Canada basketball was missing two things, a women’s professional league and a WNBA team. We already got one [the league] and it seems the other one is on the way,” Lapeña said.

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The much-awaited WNBA team is coming to Toronto. CBC reported last week that the city will have a franchise of the best women’s basketball league in the world expected to begin to play in 2026.

Humber News has been able to confirm the information through an anonymous source working on the WNBA team project.

The team is expected to be officially announced on May 23, but details like where the franchise will be presented and how are still unknown, as well as the name and the logo.

The group Kilmer Sports Inc., headed by Toronto billionaire Larry Tanenbaum, will own the new organization and the games will be hosted at the Coca-Cola Coliseum, CBC said.

Tanenbaum is the chairman and a minority owner in the Maple Leafs Sports and Entertainment (MLSE), the company that owns the Maple Leafs, Raptors, TFC, Argos and Marlies.

Different reports pointed out that last year MLSE dismissed owning a WNBA franchise because the firm didn’t want to give up the revenues from the concerts in the Scotiabank Arena.

The building that currently hosts the Raptors and the Leafs games would have been the venue for the home games of a hypothetical WNBA team created under the umbrella of MLSE.

Víctor Lapeña is excited about the possible scenario of coaching the WNBA team in the future.

Víctor Lapeña is excited about the possible scenario of coaching the WNBA team in the future. Photo credit: Antoni Canyameras Rojas

While the WNBA has not confirmed anything yet as a league about the new team in Toronto, Toronto Mayor Olivia Chow hinted last week there would be good news soon in an interview with CP24.

Humber News has tried to reach out to the City Hall to know more details with no success at the moment.

The personnel who will work within the organization also remains unknown.

Lapeña said he would be willing to work in the new Toronto WNBA team.

“I’ve not been involved in the creation process of the franchise, but Canada Basketball is in the process of working together. If at some point they want something from me, I’ll be delighted to help,” the Women’s Canada Basketball coach said.

“If they told me to coach the team, why not? If at some point they think of me looking forward it will be a pleasure. It will be one more challenge,” he said.

Jordi Fernandez, the men’s Canada coach, is juggling his job as a coach of Canada and his new position as an NBA head coach with the Brooklyn Nets.

The WNBA team coming to Toronto means one more achievement for Canadian women’s sports in the context of its steady and constant growth.

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In the last year and a half, the country has seen the creation of the new women’s basketball league, the Maritimes Women’s Basketball Association, and the Professional Women’s Hockey League with Toronto, Ottawa and Montreal as Canadian teams.

A new women’s soccer league is eyeing moving north and Canada lifted the Billie Jean King Cup in tennis in 2023.

Canadian women’s basketball still has the chance to keep reaching new horizons this year by medaling for the first time in the Olympics in Paris with Lapeña at the helm.

Proven and experienced WNBA players like Kia Nurse and Bridget Carleton are expected to lead the team but also young talents like Aaliyah Edwards and Laeticia Amihere, who are already competing in the highest-level basketball league.

“The future of Canadian basketball is great. I hope that the Toronto’s WNBA team recruits Canadian players,” Lapeña said.

More to come.