Warriors President and COO Rick Welts expects the Bay Area to be home to a WNBA over the next five years.
Speaking to reporters ahead of Tuesday night’s NBA Draft Lottery, Welts, who will step down in the coming weeks, acknowledged that the organization had considered creating a WNBA team in the past. However, due to plans to build the Chase Center in San Francisco and then the coronavirus pandemic, “the time was not right.”
Still, Welts thinks the Bay Area is a perfect place for a WNBA franchise.
“We watch it all the time,” Welts said of building a WNBA team in the Bay Area. “In order to make this work, you have to be able to sell tickets and you have to be able to sell referrals. Without these two things, you won’t have a financially successful WNBA team, and we do both of these things very well by the way.
“There’s no plan right now, but I would be very disappointed if by… the next five years, we didn’t have a WNBA team playing here somewhere in the Bay Area.”
The WNBA, the women’s counterpart to the NBA, is made up of 12 teams. Half of these teams have a direct affiliation with an NBA club in the same market. While WNBA franchises don’t have to be affiliated with an NBA franchise, it appears the Warriors are interested in helping create the first WNBA expansion franchise since 2008.
In Welts, WNBA commissioner Cathy Engelbert has a fan and a supporter. Although Welts is resigning from his post – and being replaced by Brandon Schneider – he should still remain in contact with the Warriors organization as a consultant.
Welts, 68, has spent the last 10 seasons with Golden State and has been in the NBA for more than four decades, including roles with the Seattle SuperSonics, the Phoenix Suns and the NBA league office. He was inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in 2018, punctuating a career filled with accomplishments such as marketing the 1992 Olympics ‘Dream Team’, helping to create the All-Star Weekend and building the Chase. Center, located in the Mission Bay neighborhood of San Francisco. Whether his next project involves the WNBA remains to be seen, but it appears to be a priority.