Where To, W? Has Denver become WNBA’s ‘mystery city’ for expansion?

It is common in Major League Baseball, particularly around the time of the offseason to hear about “mystery teams” that could be involved in trades for marquee players or free agents. From time to time, those mystery teams that came out of nowhere ended up being the teams to land those big fish during MLB’s Hot Stove period. 

While expansion is still a hot topic within WNBA circles, more and more fans (and media) have become lukewarm to any expansion news. After all, commissioner Cathy Engelbert over the years has talked a grand game on expansion, but the W is still stuck on 12 teams as it was when she took over for Lisa Borders prior to the 2019 season. 

Those fans and media are taking more of a “we’ll believe it when we see it” approach on the subject of any expansion news. 

Apparently, Engelbert knows this and decide to throw the WNBA family a massive bone. 

Apparently, she took a visit to the Mile High City and met with a few major movers and shakers that could be influential on bringing the W to Colorado. 

Those movers and shakers included Colorado governor Jared Polis and Denver mayor Mike Johnston. Arielle Orsuto of KUSA-TV NBC 9 in Denver also reported that investors Ashley and Navin Diamond as well as Robert Cohen were part of the Denver contingency along with Johnston and Polis. 

She is also reporting that Magness Arena (Denver University) as well as Ball Arena (Stan Kroenke) are possible locations for a WNBA Denver team. 

This is very familiar to what happened in the early part of the year when the commissioner paid a visit to Portland – another city that would love a WNBA team. She accepted an invitation from Oregon senator Ron Wyden and a selling point was the rivalry the Portland team would have with the Seattle Storm. 

The meeting occurred, fittingly, at The Sports Bra – a sports bar whose signature focus is women’s sports. Another selling point was the success of the NWSL’s Portland Thorns. 

At this point, Engelbert has to know that the demand for a WNBA team is (mile) high. And Engelbert has to know that when she steps foot in a city that currently is without a team, locals and politicians will use said visit to pitch their locales to the commissioner as ideal spots for the W’s 13th and 14th teams. 

That is essentially what Toronto did when Scotiabank Arena was sold out for the WNBA Canada Game between the Minnesota Lynx and Chicago Sky. Not only was the game a success in terms of how many fannies were in seats, but it was also a massive merchandising bonanza for the W as well. 

Throughout much of the expansion debate, Toronto, the Bay Area, Philadelphia, Nashville and Charlotte have been among the cities mentioned in W circles. The emergence of Denver as a real player in the expansion sweepstakes is an intriguing plot twist as the league ponders the “Where To, W?” question we at Beyond The W have posed since 2017. 

The Denver news was met with mixed reaction, ranging from…


What particularly makes Denver a player in the WNBA’s expansion find is how the Mile High City could become the signature NBA city for years to come. 

Led by Jamal Murray and Nikola Jokic, the Denver Nuggets defeated the Miami Heat in five games to claim the franchise’s first-ever NBA championship. As defending champions, the Nuggets will get a lot more national television coverage – and will even be featured on the final Christmas Day game this year when they host the Golden State Warriors at Ball Arena. 

Colorado is typically thought of as a football state. But the continued success of the Nuggets could make basketball the focus of the Denver sports fan for the next several years. The WNBA is clearly attempting to capitalize on basketball emerging as a major sport of interest for Centennial State sports fans. 

We still have the leaders in the clubhouse for expansion as the Bay Area (Oakland) followed by Philadelphia and Toronto. But it is clear that Denver is looking at the W with a curious eye and Engelbert’s eye at Denver is become all the more curious. 

Oakland, Toronto and Philly may have a bit of competition. Could the “Denver Mountaineers” or the “Colorado Centennials” be a thing of the future? Only time will tell. 

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