Sterling: Why a WNBA franchise would thrive in Portland

Portland, Oregon 

As a Portland native, I can attest to the undying passion for local sports held by fans in the Rose City. While Portland’s teams exist in a small market that pales in comparison to those of Los Angeles or New York City, supporters of the Trail Blazers, Timbers and Thorns do not match the description of “small” by any means.

Portland lacks two major franchises that larger markets typically possess. Neither MLB nor the NFL have tested the PDX waters, but the push for an MLB squad has graced the news in recent years. 

Although having a baseball team in Portland would fulfill a lifelong dream of mine, another new franchise Portland needs is a WNBA team. The growing popularity of the league combined with an eager fan base would be a recipe for success in Portland. 

The reappearance of a WNBA franchise would follow the brief tenure of the Portland Fire, who played three seasons prior to folding in 2002. Financial issues prevented the franchise from being purchased by former Portland Trail Blazers’ owner Paul Allen, and other attempts to buy the team ultimately failed.

Portland would be a prime location for a WNBA franchise. The love for local teams is overwhelmingly strong, and the Portland Thorns, members of the National Women’s Soccer League, have pulled in record support from fans since being established in 2012. This suggests similar, stellar showings from fans of a potential WNBA squad. Although women’s sports are severely undervalued, Portland has shown its ability to provide near-equal support for all teams in recent years. 

In order for Portland to receive a team, years of lobbying in addition to a league-wide expansion would be necessary. Fortunately, rumors of WNBA expansion have been floating around for years. If, or when, expansion takes place, Portland should undoubtedly be near the top of the list of cities.

Currently the WNBA is comprised of12 teams. For comparison, the NBA is made up of 30 organizations. With growing popularity, the next logical step could be to expand. Proper, functional ownership and management is vital for expansion to have a positive impact on the league, so the process should not be rushed. 

The golden time to invest in professional women’s sports may be coming to an end with enhanced popularity, but it is still less expensive than investing in men’s athletics. 

A larger WNBA presence would benefit the sports community as a whole, future generations interested in playing basketball, global development and could also help fix devastating wage gap issues. Increased TV and advertising revenue would be necessary, but a new team in Portland would surely provide an avid fan base willing to help grow the sport.

As a lifelong Portland sports fan, I know that my fellow Portlanders and I have room in our hearts for another franchise that will surely be loved by its home city. The fit of a WNBA team in Portland is too perfect to ignore, and I hope to see continued interest in a new team in the near future. Plus, I could never complain about an extended basketball season filled with both the WNBA and NBA.