WNBA President Donna Orender announced today that the City of Atlanta has been awarded a WNBA expansion team for the 2008 season. The new team will be owned and operated by Atlanta businessman J. Ronald Terwilliger.
“As a great sports town and a region that enthusiastically supports women’s athletics, Atlanta is a terrific destination for the WNBA” said Orender. “This is a family-oriented community with tremendous civic pride. I am confident that as a world-class sports league providing great family entertainment, the WNBA will be embraced here for years to come. I commend Ron Terwilliger for his efforts in bringing the WNBA to Atlanta and know the league will benefit from his superior leadership skills, business acumen and commitment to the community.”
Since 1986, Terwilliger, 66, has been chairman and chief executive officer of Trammell Crow Residential, a national residential real estate company and the largest developer of multi-family housing in the United States. As chairman and CEO, Terwilliger is responsible for all residential development and operations conducted by the company’s 23 offices throughout the country. An honor graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy, Terwilliger’s serves as vice chairman of the International Board of Directors of Habitat for Humanity among various community endeavors. The Arlington, VA native is also the former chairman of the Atlanta Neighborhood Development Partnership.
“I am excited to make this contribution to Atlanta’s sports community. Our effort is to transcend sports, making a statement of encouragement and support to girls and women in our society. I am participating as a sports fan who will enjoy the journey and as a dad for his daughters and other young women like them. We are committed to developing a successful team, taking the time and expending the energy to build something very special. And, I am hoping that Atlantans will adopt this team and embrace it as their own. We will make our mark in the history books with this team and have a great time doing it.”
“Today’s event is the culmination of a community-wide campaign to bring a WNBA franchise to Atlanta,” said Lisa Borders, President of the Atlanta City Council. “The WNBA is the premier women’s professional sports league in the world, and we could not be more excited to welcome the WNBA and these world-class athletes to our great city.”
The Atlanta franchise, which will choose a name, logo, colors and head coach at a later date, is the sixth WNBA team to be independently owned and operated.
The WNBA will feature 14 teams in 2008, with the Eastern and Western Conferences comprised of seven teams each. Atlanta will join the Chicago Sky, Connecticut Sun, Detroit Shock, Indiana Fever, New York Liberty and Washington Mystics in the Eastern Conference, while the Houston Comets, Los Angeles Sparks, Minnesota Lynx, Phoenix Mercury, Sacramento Monarchs, San Antonio Silver Stars and Seattle Storm will continue to comprise the Western Conference.
Including the new Atlanta franchise, six WNBA teams are owned and operated independently of the NBA. The Mohegan Tribe became the first independent ownership group when it purchased the Connecticut Sun in 2003. In February 2005, Michael Alter purchased the expansion Chicago Sky (which began play in 2006) while the Washington Mystics were sold to Sheila Johnson (Lincoln Holdings, LLC), in 2005. In December 2006, Katherine Goodman and Carla Christofferson bought the Los Angeles Sparks, while Houston businessman Hilton Koch purchased the Houston Comets in January 2007.