An Oakland WNBA team has been approved by the Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum Authority for Oakland Arena, but several things need to happen before a team hits the court.
The African American Sports and Entertainment Group, headed by Ray Bobbitt, received nonbinding approval from the authority for a team at Oakland Arena, now lacking a regular sports tenant after the departure of the Golden State Warriors (NBA). An Oakland WNBA team would be part of Bobbitt’s bigger vision for the Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum site: use the entire site for redevelopment, per the Bay City News Service:
At least one other group is also seeking to buy the city’s stake. The other half of the complex is owned by the A’s, which purchased it from Alameda County.
If Bobbitt’s group scooped up the city’s stake, it would be a historic deal.
“It would be the largest award of public land to an African American group in the City’s 169-year history,” Bobbitt said recently in a statement.
There reportedly are several investors seeking to land the city’s half of the site, including the Oakland Athletics, which controls the other half of the Coliseum site ownership after purchasing it from Alameda County. The Athletics, in various public statements, have viewed the future of the site as being ripe for redevelopment as well, with the arena continuing normal operations and the Coliseum torn down. So the vision of a WNBA team is not incompatible with what the A’s want.
Still, the important thing to note is how early we are in the process: the WNBA has not announced expansion plans, though many league insider expect new teams within the next four years. The WNBA is now at 12 teams, but after the contraction of four teams in the past several teams, there’s an understandable reluctance to expand too soon. There are some markets that would seem to be a natural for a WNBA team–Philadelphia, Nashville and Toronto are intriguing markets–but with NBA seemingly reluctant to add a WNBA team to their lineup, it will take outside investor groups to make expansion happen. Only five WNBA teams are owned by NBA owners, and while COVID-19 has severely impacted league attendance this season, the long-term prospects for the league are held in wide regard by marketing folks.