With talk of the WNBA expanding beyond 12 teams gaining traction, one city has everything the league could need: Las Vegas.
Thus far, the 21st season of the WNBA has been, by all accounts, a huge success. Ratings are up, steaming games on Twitter has proven incredibly popular and excitement about the upcoming All-Star Game is Seattle is at a fever pitch for women’s hoops fans.
So of course, with all those positives, it has fans asking the same question that seem to ask every season: is the WNBA ready to finally expand and add franchises to the existing 12.
While WNBA president Lisa Borders will not commit one way or another, she has talked about the possibility in the past. At that time she made it very clear that while she would love to expand the league, it won’t happen until all 12 existing teams are on solid financial footing and playing in front of packed houses. Because while attendance is up this season, it still lags behind what the other pro leagues draw on a regular basis.
What it boils down to is that if the WNBA is making money, which according to an article in the New York Times last year only applies to half the teams in the league, then the time will be right to expand.
The choice of where to expand will be key to if it happens at all. Sure, Sacramento has been practically begging to get a franchise again ever since the Monarchs were shut down. And while other cities would seem to be sure bets, such as San Francisco, Orlando and Philadelphia, they would have to show they could not only embrace a WNBA team, but support it by filling a stadium and putting it in the black.
With all that being said, there is one city that could fit the bill and be exactly what the WNBA needs.
First, with a brand new NHL franchise arriving this upcoming season and the Raiders of the NFL moving to the city in a few years, professional sports are about to become a very big thing in Sin City. A new WNBA franchise could ride that wave all the way to the bank and be a huge draw, which would translate to big ticket sales.
Second, July is when the entire focus of the basketball world turns to Vegas and NBA Summer League basketball. Imagine all those fans, hungry for hoops in all its forms, going to see the local WNBA team play during the heart of the season. It would be a perfect way to show everyone and anyone what the league is all about.
And third, given this is Vegas, there would be a steady stream of people, both locals and tourists, who could make a full arena a regular occurrence. While every team in the WNBA has a devoted fanbase that attends games regularly, in Vegas you could add a whole new demographic of people from all across the country, exposing them to the best of women’s basketball.
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Would there be issues to solve? Sure. It’s doubtful any team could fill the new T-Mobile Arena at first, so they would need to find a place to play. Plus there is the heat of a Vegas summer and the obvious obstacles that have kept por sports out of Sin City for decades.
But at the end of the day, if the WNBA wants to expand, they should give Las Vegas serious consideration. It could be a win/win for just about everyone.