Late Thursday night, the San Antonio Stars announced that the franchise will be sold and relocated after a report from the San Antonio Express News said that the move was imminent. While the location has not been officially announced yet, multiple reports have said that Las Vegas is the likely destination for the franchise.
Las Vegas is certainly an interesting location choice for a WNBA franchise. The league has never had a team in Sin City before, and it’s a city that is just getting its feet wet in professional sports. The Vegas Golden Knights of the NHL are in their first season as a franchise, while the Oakland Raiders of the NFL are expected to move to Las Vegas in the next few years.
The financial opportunities that the market provides for these professional franchises and leagues are not being ignored, but uncertainty exists over what kind of WNBA fanbase exists within the city limits. Most importantly, a move by the Stars to Las Vegas could open the door to an NBA team forming in Sin City soon.
With San Antonio’s expected move out west to the desert, we decided to take a look at other cities that we think should have WNBA franchises too.
[More from Excelle Sports: Breaking: San Antonio Stars to be sold and relocated]
San Francisco/Oakland (The Bay Area)
The Bay Area has been rumored to have expressed interest in the past of purchasing and bringing a WNBA team to Northern California. According to NBA reporter Marc Spears of ESPN’s The Undefeated, the Golden State Warriors have wanted to buy a WNBA franchise and relocate it to the Bay Area before.
A WNBA team in the Bay Area would be very intriguing and exciting. The league hasn’t had a team in Northern California since the Sacramento Monarchs dissolved in 2009. But it was a successful franchise that won the 2005 WNBA title and went to the 2006 WNBA Finals. Before the franchise folded up operations, the WNBA reportedly tried to move the team to the Bay Area.
As any basketball fan knows, the Bay Area has become the epicenter of the basketball world because of the success of the Warriors and their superstar players. Having won two NBA titles in the last three years, Golden State is the NBA’s Minnesota Lynx. The fanbase in the Bay Area has always been known as incredibly passionate about the sport and would certainly rally around a WNBA team like it has the Warriors. Not to mention, a brand new basketball arena will open up in San Francisco in 2019.
With the investment opportunities from Silicon Valley in the area and the platform that the Warriors’ success now provides, there might not be a hotter location for a WNBA franchise right now than the Bay Area.
Like the Bay Area, Charlotte and the entire state of North Carolina is a basketball hotbed. In fact, the city once had a WNBA franchise. One of the league’s original teams, the Charlotte Sting dissolved in 2007 after a loss in revenue and game attendance. The team almost moved to Kansas City, but it did not happen.
Some would say that trying to reboot a WNBA franchise in Charlotte wouldn’t work, but it actually could happen. First and foremost, the Sting went to the playoffs in six of its first seven seasons as a franchise. Most notably, Charlotte advanced to the 2001 WNBA Finals. While the team’s success on the court did not continue in its last few seasons, the franchise showed that it was a consistent playoff team.
Second, the NBA faced a similar situation with the Charlotte Hornets. Known as a consistent playoff team as well, the Hornets moved to New Orleans after the 2002 season. But after the franchise in New Orleans changed its nickname to the Pelicans, the Hornets name returned to Charlotte and the franchise was reborn. Since rebranding itself as the Hornets after a 10-year period known as the Bobcats, Charlotte has been a playoff team. Having Michael Jordan as its owner and the platform he brings hasn’t hurt either. The point here is that the NBA had a similar circumstance and it worked out well, so it could happen for the WNBA too.
As mentioned at the beginning here, North Carolina is one of the most basketball-centric states in the country. With ACC powerhouses like UNC, Duke, NC State, and Wake Forest all in the area, the state lives and breathes basketball. That passion hasn’t quite reached the same level with the professional basketball teams that have come through Charlotte, but building upon the return of the Hornets and the state’s college fandom could work if the WNBA brought a team back.
Sure, there are other cities like Houston and Detroit that have both had successful WNBA franchises in the past and make strong cases for having another team in the future. But the basketball legacy and history of North Carolina makes the Emerald City a great spot to bring back a WNBA franchise.
Yes, Knoxville isn’t probably the first city one thinks of when mentioning where to bring a professional sports franchise. In the state of Tennessee, Memphis and Nashville are two locations that come to mind much quicker. But when it comes to women’s basketball, there may be no better place than Knoxville.
Located in Knoxville, the University of Tennessee has had one of the greatest women’s college basketball programs of all-time. Under the leadership of Hall of Fame head coach Pat Summitt, the Lady Vols won eight national championships. With a dedicated fanbase that appreciates and knows what women’s basketball is all about, this could be a great landing spot for the WNBA.
It might not have the same market size as those other cities, but it sure can match them in terms of fandom. For those who doubt it could work, look to what the Connecticut Sun have been able to do. Nestled in between the Boston and New York markets, the Sun are located in Uncasville. Like Knoxville, it’s not the biggest city on the map. But like Tennessee, Connecticut has a rabid women’s basketball fanbase thanks in large part to the success of the UConn’s women’s basketball team under head coach Geno Auriemma. And the Sun have done their part on the floor too, having been to the WNBA Finals twice in the franchise’s 15-year history.
Knoxville might not be the first place one thinks of, but it could be a fun spot for a WNBA franchise.