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PHOENIX, ARIZONA – JULY 07: Sabrina Ionescu #20 of the New York Liberty handles the ball against Shey Peddy #11 and Sophie Cunningham #9 of the Phoenix Mercury during the first half of the WNBA game at Footprint Center on July 07, 2022 in Phoenix, Arizona. The Mercury defeated the Liberty 84-81. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

The WNBA playoffs begin Wednesday, but the Bay Area has no skin in the game — other than supporting local products like Sabrina Ionescu, Chelsea Gray and others who are playing for various teams across the league.

That soon could change.

With the WNBA eying an expansion in the near future, the Bay has emerged as a legitimate target market to be the home of a new franchise.

Several prominent basketball figures, including NBA commissioner Adam Silver and retiring WNBA legend Sue Bird, have identified San Francisco or Oakland as a prime place to have a team.

“I’m definitely in favor of it,” Silver said at the NBA Finals. He also called the Bay a “fantastic basketball market” that “has historically been a great women’s basketball market as well.”

Engelbert has repeatedly mentioned the Bay in her comments about an expansion, interestingly noting its close proximity to Silicon Valley.

In a July interview with Boardroom, Engelbert said, “When technology is driving so much of your economy, not to have a team in the Bay Area seemed like a missed opportunity, especially with Stanford’s women’s basketball program having been so successful. So it kind of struck me that this would be a market that would be of interest.”

Exactly when the WNBA will announce its expansion locations remains unclear. Engelbert told The Athletic in June that she hoped to identify a city or two by the end of the year, with the goal of having the team or teams up and running as soon as the 2024 season.

Engelbert has mentioned other potential expansion markets, including Austin, Philadelphia, Toronto and Nashville.

But here are three reasons why the Bay might upstage those other cities:

1. Willing investors

There are two potential Bay Area ownership groups who’ve expressed interest in buying a team: The Golden State Warriors and the Oakland-based African American Sports and Entertainment Group (AASEG), an organization of prominent local Black business leaders with a Black women-led ownership group including 16-year WNBA star Alana Beard.

Warriors owner Joe Lacob has long been a supporter of women’s basketball, having owned the San Jose Lasers of the American Basketball League, a major professional women’s basketball league that preceded the WNBA. Lacob has called it “a dream” to bring a WNBA team to the Bay but has twice failed in his quest to relocate other franchises when they went for sale.

Under Lacob’s ownership, the Warriors established a reputation to win at whatever cost, and he would bring that mentality to a WNBA franchise. An added bonus is that the Warriors own Chase Center.

Meanwhile, AASEG is a little more of a wild card because it doesn’t have prior experience owning a sports franchise. Last year, AASEG won exclusive negotiating rights to purchase the City of Oakland’s half of the Coliseum complex, though those negotiations remain ongoing. AASEG founder and president Ray Bobbitt has said their group is committed to prioritizing the WNBA.

“When you look at our proposal in its totality and kind of what we did in the way of bringing attention here and making sure we engage the league, it would be hard to see how somebody would not want to just root for this,” he previously told this news organization.

Having two potential bids on the table gives the WNBA options as well as the competition to create a better bid that could better the league.

2. Location

Before seriously considering a league expansion, Engelbert’s first three years as the league’s commissioner had been focused on the league’s economics. She brought in new investors and partners as well as expanded media partnerships to help make the league more financially sustainable.

The Bay’s proximity to Silicon Valley offers exciting and immense opportunities for corporate sponsorships for both the team and the league. It’s also worth noting that the increased awareness of the WNBA can, in part, be attributed to successful social media campaigns and influencers’ support.

The Bay is also the sixth-largest media market and the second-largest market without a team. (Philadelphia, another spot vying for a franchise, is No. 4, according to Nielsen rankings.) A team here would only bolster the WNBA’s presence out west.

Geographically, it would be sandwiched between the Seattle Storm and Los Angeles Sparks while also not being too far away from the Las Vegas Aces.

One issue arising for a team in Toronto is having to get opponents there in a timely manner. Per the collective bargaining agreement, teams must fly commercial, which continues to be a hot-button issue as players are subjected to travel delays and flight cancellations. Trying to get a large traveling party over the border is bound to create even more headaches.

Meanwhile, the Bay features three major airports in Oakland, San Francisco and San Jose. While Oakland and San Jose see less air traffic, flying out only a combined average of 270 flights per day, San Francisco is a hub for Alaska and United Airlines and experiences about 1,300 flights out per day. That’s more than triple the number of flights that airports in Nashville and Austin have, potentially giving teams more options to fly in and out.

3. Established basketball fanbase and cultural fit

Basketball has always been big in the Bay. But with the Warriors winning four of the last eight NBA championships, and Stanford women’s basketball picking up its third NCAA title in 2021 and making another run to the Final Four this year, basketball fandom in the Bay has possibly never been stronger.

Led by coach Tara VanDerveer, the winningest coach in Division I women’s basketball history, Stanford has produced more than 50 professional women’s basketball players and had at least five alumni playing in the WNBA this season. That list is headlined by Sparks stars Nneka and Chiney Ogwumike and includes Lexie Hull,  Kiana Williams and Alanna Smith.

Furthermore, the WNBA’s values also fall in line with the liberal Bay Area, which supports one of the largest LGBTQ+ communities in the nation.

The Bay has clear answers to most if not all the questions the WNBA might have for an expansion team. It shouldn’t be a matter of whether it’ll get a team, but when.

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