Why the WNBA Pulled Out of Portland

Recently, it seemed inevitable that the WNBA would expand into Portland, Oregon.

News reports indicated that an announcement was imminent, and league commissioner Cathy Engelbert had previously stated that Portland would be a great destination for a WNBA franchise.

However, things took an unexpected turn when Engelbert sent a letter to Oregon Senator Ron Wyden, stating that planned renovations to the Moda Center, home of the NBA’s Trail Blazers and intended to be shared with a WNBA team, were the reason for changing the plan and abandoning the Portland expansion.

Bill Oram, a sports columnist for the Oregonian, discussed this issue in the latest episode of the Front Office Sports Today podcast and provided insights based on his reporting.

Listen to the full episode below:

Listen to the episode:

Oram on Engelbert’s explanation:

Engelbert justified the change of plans citing the planned Moda Center renovations, but Oram stated that this reason came as a surprise, as these renovations had been known for months. This left many puzzled, as an announcement regarding the Portland expansion deal was highly anticipated.

An alternate explanation for the reversal:

Oram pointed out the withdrawal of Kirk Brown, the proposed owner of the team and a former co-founder of ZoomInfo, which was the real reason behind the cancellation. Brown pulled out just days before the planned team announcement due to disagreements with the WNBA regarding the team’s branding and other regulations.

Potential efforts to revive the Portland expansion:

He mentioned there are ongoing efforts to form a new ownership group that could revive the bid to bring a WNBA team to Portland. However, with the planned Moda Center renovations and the withdrawal of the proposed owner, the WNBA is in a tough spot.

The WNBA’s next move:

Oram noted that the WNBA’s focus on Portland has led to recent setbacks in other expansion cities. The league’s shift to another city does not seem imminent, raising questions about the future of the WNBA’s expansion plans.


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