Beyond the Match: The WNBA should consider expanding to Toronto
A diverse city with over two million inhabitants deserves the chance to support a WNBA team
Columns / May 31, 2021
The Women’s National Basketball Association 2021 season started on May 14, and in just a few days, fans have seen amazing basketball. The season opener featured two game-winning shots, one from Sabrina Ionescu, point guard for the New York Liberty, and another from WNBA legend Diana Taurasi.
There was a 27 per cent increase in viewership for the New York Liberty game. A reason for this increase can be given to Sabrina Ionescu and the game winner she made, which has received a lot of attention from sports fans.
The WNBA has been around for some time now. This season marks 25 years and it’s about time that the league expands its talents to Toronto.
This expansion will not be much of a risky move in terms of bringing in fans and viewership. Toronto is home to over two million people, with the Greater Toronto Area having more than five million people.
The city of Toronto is home to many professional sports teams like the Toronto Raptors, Toronto Blue Jays, Toronto Maple Leafs, and the Toronto Football Club. Adding another sports team would just bring more to the city.
Back in 2019, there was a bid to bring a women’s basketball team to Toronto. One of the founders for the bid, Daniel Escott, listed the Toronto Raptors recent championship and “Toronto’s credibility as a professional basketball market” as some of the reasons why a WNBA expansion would be successful in the city.
While the WNBA commissioner has spoken about an expansion not being in the plans, a team in Toronto is not a far-fetched dream. It’s just something that can be worked on for the future.
The ratings of the WNBA are currently going up. The 2020 and 2021 drafts were the two drafts that had to be held virtually due to COVID-19, and they were reportedly the drafts with the most viewership, with the 2020 draft having a 123 per cent increase in viewers.
The league is also seeing an uptick in social media views and engagement. An expansion to a big city with eager sports fans could only help with the view count.
This expansion can look risky, but if a WNBA team in Toronto were to be owned by the Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment, which is the same company that owns popular sports teams like the Raptors and the Maple Leafs, it could be a gamble that ends up being successful.
The Toronto Raptors championship saw a large crowd of support from the city. The Maple Leafs are an old team that will always have a fanbase in the city, and this season they look to go on a long playoff run since they’ve clinched the number one spot in the North division. The Blue Jays are also starting their season strong.
Expanding a WNBA team to Toronto will not only help with the growth of the game and league, but it will also help support more hometown athletes.
Toronto is one of the most diverse cities in the world, and that is not only with the people. It’s also with the number of professional sports offered to the residents of the city. The people of Toronto have the luxury of watching the Raptors, Maple Leafs, Blue Jays, Toronto FC, Toronto Argonauts, and more.
Adding a WNBA team would not only provide more space for the growing talents of the WNBA, but it will also help the city expand its love for sports.