Report: WNBA awards Atlanta franchise for '08 season

Updated: October 16, 2007, 11:45 PM ET
Associated Press

ATLANTA -- The WNBA will announce Wednesday that it has awarded a franchise to Atlanta, a person familiar with the deal said Tuesday.

Atlanta real estate executive Ron Terwilliger will be the sole owner of the team, which will begin play in 2008, according to the person familiar with the deal, who requested anonymity because the new franchise hasn't been officially announced yet.

Atlanta City Council president Lisa Borders, one of the leaders of the committee which organized the effort, is expected to attend Wednesday's news conference along with Terwilliger.

Borders and WNBA president Donna Orender did not immediately return messages on Tuesday.

The WNBA's Charlotte franchise was disbanded following the 2006 season, leaving the league without a team in the Southeast.

Orender also had expansion talks with groups in the San Francisco area, Kansas City, Albuquerque, N.M., Colorado, Philadelphia and Atlantic City.

Borders has said she was not concerned that Atlanta's NBA team has ranked at or near the bottom of the league's attendance totals in recent seasons.

"We have a significant talent pool with the SEC and ACC, which are very strong conferences for men's and women's basketball," Borders said in May. "We would have this type of opportunity for women to leave college and go on and play in the Southeast in the WNBA."

Atlanta lost its last women's professional team nine years ago. The Atlanta Glory was a member of the American Basketball League, which folded on Dec. 28, 1998.

Seven WNBA teams had a drop in attendance in 2006 when the average was just under 7,500, nearly 3,400 below the 10,869 the league averaged in 1998.

The Atlanta WNBA team is expected to play in Philips Arena, also home to the Hawks and the NHL Atlanta Thrashers. It isn't expected to announce a coach on Wednesday.


Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press