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The WNBA is coming to Toronto and will play as soon as the 2026 season

Toronto Raptors president Masai Ujiri, Larry Tanenbaum of Kilmer Sports Ventures and WNBA Toronto team president Teresa Resch pose for a photo during a press conference announcing the city’s WNBA franchise, in Toronto on Thursday, May 23, 2024. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Christopher Katsarov

The WNBA is expanding to Toronto, but Larry Tanenbaum says the new team will belong to all of Canada.

Tanenbaum’s Kilmer Sports Ventures confirmed Thursday it has been awarded a franchise in the professional women’s basketball league.

The announcement was made at a downtown Toronto hotel attended by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, Ontario Premier Doug Ford, rapper Drake and Toronto Raptors star Scottie Barnes.

The as-yet-unnamed team will play out of the 8,700-seat Coca-Cola Coliseum, an arena in downtown Toronto at Exhibition Place and will have the ability to move up to the Scotiabank Arena on occasion

Tanenbaum said the team will also play in other Canadian markets.

“This franchise will be Canada’s team,” Tanenbaum said. “While our home base will be (Coca-Cola Coliseum) at Exhibition Place in Toronto, we will play games in Vancouver and Montreal throughout the season, uniting the country behind our franchise and inspiring pride and passion in fans from coast to coast.”

Coca-Cola Coliseum is also home to the American Hockey League’s Toronto Marlies and hosted the first Professional Women’s Hockey League’s Toronto team, as well as its first-ever playoffs.

Toronto’s WNBA team will start playing in May 2026. It will be the WNBA’s 14th franchise, with the expansion Golden State Valkyries set to start play next year.

“Growing internationally, I’ve been trying to think through next steps on a global platform,” WNBA commissioner Cathy Engelbert told The Associated Press ahead of the official announcement.

“It helps us reach new audiences and bring in new partners. The thing I love about going to another country is that the young girls and boys get to see professional basketball for women is important, too.”

The CBC was the first to report on May 10 that the women’s professional basketball league had awarded a franchise to Kilmer Sports Ventures, headed by Toronto businessman Larry Tanenbaum.

Tanenbaum is the chairman and CEO of Kilmer Group and the chairman of the board for Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment, which owns the NBA’s Raptors and the NHL’s Maple Leafs.

Tanenbaum, who is paying $50 million for the team, noted it was important to invest in communities across the country.

“Success is not just about the players and the team but it is also about insuring purpose-led legacy,” he said. “Our players will serve as inspirational role models both on and off the court.”

Tanenbaum said ownership would take its time and “solicit public input” before naming the team.

Canada has hosted sold-out WNBA pre-season games at Scotiabank Arena in 2023 and Edmonton’s Rogers Place on May 4.

There are four Canadians in the WNBA this season — Aaliyah Edwards, of Kingston, Ont. (Washington Mystics), Bridget Carleton, of Chatham, Ont. (Minnesota Lynx), Laeticia Amihere, of Milton, Ont. (Atlanta Dream), and Hamilton’s Kia Nurse (Los Angeles Sparks).

READ ALSO: B.C.’s Jim Hiller named head coach of the NHL’s Los Angeles Kings

— With files from The Associated Press.

The Canadian Press