PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) – WNBA Commissioner Cathy Engelbert will join the women’s basketball coaches from Oregon State University and the University of Oregon, and top Trail Blazers and Thorns executives in a panel discussion, U.S. Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., said.
The sports leaders are meeting in Portland on Feb. 6 and will discuss how the city can help support the growth of women’s sports in the U.S.
Wyden has been advocating for the addition of a WNBA team in Portland and said he already considers Oregon to be an “epicenter” for women’s sports.
“Look at the off-the-charts attendance numbers that the Thorns draw for soccer in Portland, or the huge crowds that women’s college basketball draws throughout Oregon, and there’s no doubt a WNBA team would be a slam-dunk success in the Moda Center,” he said.
The senator wrote a letter to Engelbert and NBA Commissioner Adam Silver in September explaining how a WNBA team in Portland could help expand women’s basketball throughout the country.
“I’m excited to visit Portland, a city with a great sports history and an incredible fanbase that has shown tremendous support and enthusiasm for women’s sports,” Engelbert said. “We continue to see a huge demand for the WNBA around the country, and the city of Portland is a perfect illustration of this.”
She said she’s looking forward to discussing the upward trajectory of the league and the momentum of women’s sports.
Jenny Nguyen, owner of The Sports Bra, a Portland bar dedicated to women’s sports, will host the roundtable discussion.
Wyden will attend the event along with OSU women’s basketball coach Scott Rueck, UO women’s basketball coach Kelly Graves, Trail Blazers president of business operations Dewayne Hankins, Trail Blazers General Manager Joe Cronin, Trail Blazers Executive Vice President Andrea Bailey, Trail Blazers Director of Basketball Planning and Strategy Asjha Jones, Trail Blazers Scouting Manger Sheri Sam, Trail Blazers intern and current WNBA player Evina Westbrook, and Thorns FC General Manager and President Karina LeBlanc.
LeBlanc said Portland is a world-class city in its support of women’s sports and it has only scratched the surface of the potential in the market.
“I’ve had the privilege of experiencing firsthand the passion for the Thorns in this community as both a player and now as a member of the front office,” she said.
Rueck said he’d like to see more professional opportunities for alumni from his team and is excited about the possibility of adding a WNBA franchise in Portland.
“It’s a layup that a WNBA franchise would flourish in the state of Oregon,” Graves said.