North America's elite Women’s National Basketball Association (WNBA) has confirmed that its 14th franchise has been awarded to the city of Toronto, Canada, and will be owned by Larry Tanenbaum’s Kilmer Sports Ventures.

WNBA commissioner Cathy Englebert commented on Canada gaining its first WNBA franchise, and only its second top-tier basketball team, stating that it “represents an important milestone for our league as we continue to expand both domestically and outside the United States.”

She added of the reasoning behind selecting Toronto and Kilmer Sports as its owner: “With Larry Tanenbaum’s distinguished record of leading successful sports franchises and Toronto’s appeal as a dynamic, diverse city that cares deeply about the game of basketball, we are confident that this new team will thrive as a first-class WNBA organization.”

Tanenbaum is the chair of Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment (MLSE), a sports-focused private investment group in which Kilmer Sports also holds a 25% stake. MLSE already controls a number of local sports sides, most relevantly the Toronto Raptors of men’s basketball’s top-tier NBA, as well as ice hockey’s Toronto Maple Leafs and soccer’s Toronto FC.

The new WNBA expansion franchise, the WNBA’s first outside the US, will enter the league for its 2026 season and will play the majority of its home games at Toronto’s 8,500-capacity Coca-Cola Coliseum, with the possibility for additional games to take place at the Scotiabank Arena (which is owned and operated by MLSE), as well as a further potential for fixtures staged across Canada.

Coca-Cola Coliseum is owned by the city of Toronto but operated by Maple Leaf Sports Group and is home to the Toronto Marlies of the National Hockey League’s developmental affiliate, the AHL.

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Furthermore, with the announcement of the new franchise Kilmer has committed to constructing a new purpose-built training facility for the Toronto franchise.

Tanenbaum, meanwhile, has been involved in basketball for a number of years, playing a role in MLSE’s acquisition of the Raptors in 1998, and currently sits as chair of the NBA’s board of governors.

Kilmer Sports, an arm of his Kilmer Group conglomerate, is headed up by Ivan Gazidis, the former chief executive of major European soccer clubs AC Milan and Arsenal, who was appointed as president in March.

Gazidis, who has thirty years of experience as a business executive in soccer and sports, stepped down as AC Milan’s chief executive in December 2022 following the takeover by US-based private equity firm RedBird Capital Partners.

The announcement of the Toronto franchise sets the WNBA on the path to achieving its long-term expansion goal, which Englebert stated in April is to expand to 16 teams by 2028.

At the time, Englebert stated that she was “pretty confident” of the league’s ability to do so, putting forward Toronto as one of a number of potential franchise host cities.

Englebert also identified the US cities of Philadelphia (Pennsylvania), Portland (Oregon), Denver (Colorado), and Nashville (Tennesee) as locations that the league is in discussion with over housing expansion franchises.

The league’s 13th franchise, the Golden State Valkyries, will enter the league from 2025.