SAN FRANCISCO - The WNBA has agreed to grant the Golden State Warriors an expansion franchise in 2025, bringing the team's headquarters to Oakland and home games to the Chase Center, the Warriors announced Thursday.
WNBA Commissioner Cathy Engelbert was at the Chase Center Thursday morning to announce the creation of the new team. Joining Engelbert on stage was Warriors CEO Joe Lacob, Warriors co-executive chairman Peter Gruber, Warriors president and chief operating officer Brandon Schneider and San Francisco Mayor London Breed.
Engelbert said there were three criteria the WNBA considered before expanding the league to a new city: a city that allows for "innovative fan engagement," a path for franchise success and a city that adds value to the WNBA.
"And the San Francisco Bay Area has proven to meet the mark and well exceed the mark in each of those three areas," Engelbert said. "The Bay Area is firmly aligned with our already strong fan base of diverse and engaged basketball fans. This is a hub for women's sports with six Division 1 women's basketball teams in the Bay Area."
Engelbert added that the expansion was possible due to the "unwavering commitment and dedication" of Warriors executive chairmen Lacob and Gruber.
"The Bay Area is the perfect market for a WNBA team, and we are thrilled this opportunity has finally come to fruition," Lacob said in a statement. "We have been interested in a WNBA franchise for several years, due in part to the rich history of women’s basketball in the Bay Area, and believe now is the ideal time to execute that vision and build upon that legacy."
The team name and mascot have yet to be released.
Mayor Breed said she looks forward to the economic impact the team will have.
"I don't know if anyone in this room is more excited than I am that we are finally getting a WNBA team to play in San Francisco, to practice in Oakland," Breed said at Thursday's event. 'This is just one step further to making sure that the public understands and realizes the value of what San Francisco does in terms of being this place that is not only an amazing, beautiful city, but also a beacon of hope for even the next generation."
While Golden State has never had a WNBA franchise before, the Warriors have been one of the premiere teams in the NBA, winning four championships since 2015. There is a strong women’s basketball fan base in the area, given Stanford and Cal’s success.
"There's so many talented women's basketball players that don't have a place in the league because there aren't enough spots because there aren't enough teams," said Charmin Smith, a former WNBA player and head coach of UC Berkeley women's basketball team.
Smith was also Thursday's announcement and called the expansion long overdue.
Golden State owner Lacob helped establish the American Basketball League in 1995 and owned the San Jose Lasers.
Expansion has been one of Engelbert’s top priorities, but her timeline has shifted over the years. She said last year that she hoped to announce one or two expansion teams at the end of the year, in hopes of them playing by 2024. Now they’ll have to wait at least another year.
Other cities that were in the mix for an expansion team included Denver, Toronto, Portland and Philadelphia.
There are currently 12 teams in the WNBA. The new Bay Area team will join their counterparts in Atlanta, Chicago, Dallas, Indianapolis, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, Minneapolis, New York City, Phoenix, Seattle, Uncasville, Conn., and Washington, D.C.
The Associated Press contributed to this story