Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Welcome to the WNBA, Atlanta

The WNBA welcomed Atlanta into the league today as its 14th franchise, with Atlanta businessman J. Ronald Terwilliger introduced as the owner of the expansion franchise.

Terwilliger and WNBA President Donna Orender participated in a conference call this morning with members of the WNBA media.

Clearly, Terwilliger is excited about the prospects of what the WNBA can do for the city he has called home for nearly three decades. While he has ownership of the team, Terwilliger explained, he hopes the city can adopt it as its own.

Orender described the three criteria used for expansion franchises - smart, impassioned ownership; a supportive corporate base; and a rich tradition of basketball, especially the women's game. Atlanta, she said, is near the top of these categories.

Expanding to Atlanta also gets the WNBA back to the Southeast portion of the country. Terwilliger suggested the franchise could be "the hub of of women's basketball in the Southeast," while Orender joked that the move means there's no longer an empty area on the map when she gives presentations and shows the locations of the WNBA's teams.

The Atlanta franchise will have an opportunity to build its roster in an expansion draft. The rules of that draft, Orender said, will be subject to the new Collective Bargaining Agreement, which means a date will "most likely" wait until after the CBA has been finalized. Atlanta will have the fourth pick in next spring's WNBA Draft; Chicago picked sixth in its inaugural season.

The next step for Atlanta is picking a team name (and colors and jerseys);'s Fan Voice is soliciting suggestions now. Also be sure to check out's Q&A with Terwilliger.

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