The 6 in 2026? Toronto’s WNBA hopes receive new life after report of forthcoming bid

Photo Credit: Lamar Carter

There are always ebbs and flows when it comes to any news that breaks regarding the WNBA’s expansion efforts. 

We may hear about the league’s talks with cities such as Denver and Charlotte then nothing for a few months. We may hear about how local politicians in cities such as Pittsburgh and Nashville are interested in the W coming to their cities, but nothing about ownership groups being formed. 

That changed on March 4th as Toronto re-entered the chat. 

A report out of CBC Sports by Shireen Ahmed has reported that there is indeed an effort for Team No. 14 to be in Toronto. And it appears to have some heavy hitters behind said bid. 

Heading up the effort, per that CBC Sports report, is Larry Tanenbaum and his Kilmer Group. Tanenbaum is a big name within NBA circles as he is the chairman and minority owner of the Maple Leaf Sports & Entertainment group that owns the Toronto Raptors, Toronto Maple Leafs and Toronto Blue Jays. Ahmed’s report says he is pursuing a team apart from MLSE. 

As a few tweeters have pointed out, he also holds a title that ought to really get the attention of many a WNBA fan – Chairman of the NBA Board of Governors (aka the very entity any expansion effort needs to get approval from in order to close the deal). 

Another name that is said to be involved, per Ahmed’s report is Teresa Resch. She was the former Vice President of the Toronto Raptors. Resch, per her LinkedIn profile also previously worked within the NBA as a Department Assistant for its international basketball operations and was a staff assistant prior to. 

Resch held the job with the Raptors until only a few days ago. Resch’s profile also mentions how she once held jobs at Walt Disney World and at Life Time Fitness. Apparently we see why Resch decided to say farewell to the Raptors. 

A source also told Ahmed is looking at the Coca-Cola Coliseum as a possible home venue for the Toronto team. Coca-Cola Coliseum is in Toronto proper (not a suburb) and is the home of the Toronto Marlies – the minor league affiliate of the Maple Leafs. In addition, it is also an MLSE-operated venue ala Scotiabank Arena while being directly owned by the city of Toronto. 

One thing to remember is if the bid is successful that 2026 would likely be the earliest that the team would take the court. 

As is seemingly the case during every media availability session involving WNBA commissioner Cathy Engelbert, she was asked about expansion. She mentioned how the W is locked in at 13 teams for 2025. That 13th team, of course, will be the new Bay Area franchise that will practice in Oakland, play its games at Chase Center in San Francisco and compete under the banner of “Golden State” ala its NBA brethren, the Warriors. 

Engelbert did say during that NBA All-Star session in Indianapolis last month that she wanted to get to 16 teams by 2027. Clearing the Toronto hurdle (which would also be a legacy play for Engelbert since she can say she spearheaded the W’s expansion into Canada) would be a massive get en route to that magic number of 16. 

Another plus of the facility is that it is accessible via Toronto’s extensive GO Transit train network. Similar to how other WNBA arenas are accessible via their respective transit networks, Coca-Cola Coliseum has an Exhibition GO stop right next to it. One element of the arena that also will surely get plenty of attention in WNBA circles is the year it was built – 1921.

Ahmed’s report also mentioned that Tanenbaum would eye a practice facility for the team as well as the women’s and men’s national teams. Tanenbaum and Resch are smart – they know that teams such as the Las Vegas Aces, New York Liberty, Seattle Storm, Phoenix Mercury and the new Golden State team (franchises either with practice facilities or are planning on investing significant money into practice facilities) are having the most success being competitive in today’s WNBA where players are demanding more from ownership. 

Look at the Chicago Sky on the opposite end of the spectrum. Despite new money coming into that franchise it is a question mark as to when it will finally break ground on its practice facility that has been rumored for months. That uncertainly more than likely cost the Sky two big-name free agents in Skylar Diggins-Smith and Nneka Ogwumike.

Given the standing of Tanenbaum on the NBA’s board, it is a bid that should sail through with little issues. But the revelation of said bid also comes at a very intriguing time. 

It is no secret that the WNBA wants to be in Toronto. And as last year’s WNBA Canada Game between the Minnesota Lynx and Chicago Sky proved, Toronto wants the WNBA in their city. 

But that game was a one-off. A highly successful one-off, but a one-off nonetheless. Imagine the current WNBA, given how travel problems seem to be abound, would operate with teams having to catch flights to another country – without flying charter.

Tanenbaum and Resch may not know it, but they may have reinforced a bargaining chip that Terri Jackson and Nneka Ogwumike are sure to bring Engelbert’s way if the WNBPA does indeed opt out of its current collective bargaining agreement. That seems to be all but a given for anyone who watched the “Shattered Glass” documentary on Tubi which told the story of how the current CBA came about in early 2020 prior to the emergence of the pandemic. 

Jackson and Ogwumike can say simply to the league that if it wants a Toronto team to work, the WNBA has to adopt charter flights for all teams for the entire season plus postseason. The WNBA has dipped its toes into the realm of charter flights, but only for the playoffs/Finals. And especially given that this team’s first year competing would likely be in 2026 when new CBA and media rights deals would likely go into effect? The timing could not be any more perfect for the WNBPA to apply pressure regarding charters. 

The expansion conversation is sure to evolve and evolve and evolve prior to 2027 when the WNBA hopes to arrive at that magic number of 16. Today’s news came out of nowhere and is a massive sign that Toronto is ready to go.