Golden State Valkyries

Valkyries dedicated to making Bay Area feel like home for WNBA players

NBC Universal, Inc.

More and more eyes are watching the boom of women’s sports. Talking heads are finding themselves in hot water for all the wrong ways of trying to cover a sport that happens to have women in it, as opposed to simply covering a sport, the WNBA, like anything else that has elite athletes and highly competitive people. 

One bit of news that initially was seen as nothing but a positive before its bumpy, accelerated rollout was the league’s new historic charter flight program that was announced one month ago. The back-to-back champion Las Vegas Aces made history the year prior for their 64,000-square foot practice facility and team headquarters located next door to the Las Vegas Raiders’ headquarters. 

The moment marked the first time in league history a facility was built solely for the use of a WNBA team. 

As the Golden State Valkyries begin their first expansion season in 2025, the head women in charge understand initiatives like charter flights are only one step toward improving the WNBA for its players, while also seeing the many factors that go into what can happen next. 

“I think what you're seeing with the league and the Players’ Association right now is great collaboration and a moment of growth,” Valkyries team president Jess Smith told NBC Sports Bay Area on the most recent episode of “Dubs Talk.” “So those lines need to remain, and are open, as everybody looks at this next wave of expansion, not just us, but now Toronto. 

“And will there be additional teams? What's the broadcast deal? There's just a lot out there. I think charter flights is certainly a moment that you're looking at the two of them for coming together and working through that.” 

When Golden State owner and CEO Joe Lacob searched for candidates who can build a franchise from the ground-floor, he found a handful of people with deep history in women’s sports. Smith has over 18 years of experience in professional sports, as well as 15 working in women’s sports. Her last three-and-a-half years were spent with the NWSL’s Angel City FC, which began play in the 2022 season. 

Smith is well aware of how important infrastructure like the Aces’ facility is to women’s sports, or better yet, any sport. The Valkyries found themselves in a unique position long before their name was made public. At the time of the Golden State franchise’s announcement, it was revealed games will be played at Chase Center, home of the Warriors, and practices will be held in Oakland at the Warriors’ former practice facility the team used ahead of moving from Oakland to San Francisco. 

Specifics still are in motion and are far from being complete, but the practice court and majority of surrounding spaces – weight room, etc. – will be decked out in Valkyries logos and colors

“Having these places to be elite athletes is important. We are very fortunate that we have that from day one,” Smith said. “The Oakland facility was something that our ownership group kept. What you'll expect to see from us is that's going to be Valkyries branded. 

“That's going to be a place for our athletes. It's a place where they can call home, they can train to be the best in this league. … Between that and then how we're looking at Chase center as well and making sure game day that our athletes feel like this is home, this is where we perform, this is my home–court advantage – really, really important.” 

That’s the Valkyries’ main goal in building a theoretical bridge between Oakland and San Francisco, and the Bay Area as a whole. These are the Golden State Valkyries. Not the San Francisco Valkyries or Oakland Valkyries. 

Games will be played in San Francisco. Practices will be held in Oakland. Home will be the Bay Area. 

Newly appointed general manager Ohemaa Nyanin comes from the WNBA’s New York Liberty, where she worked the last five years and was the team’s assistant GM the past two seasons. She has seen how much has changed in recent years with the league’s rapid growth. Nyanin has heard all the stories of star veteran players never having a locker with their name or a place where they can simply keep their stuff, feeling transient in hopes of settling into a space.

“Something that I'm working on day one together under the amazing leadership of Joe Lacob is how do we create roots in both San Francisco and Oakland, and how do we do it authentically,” Nyanin said. “And how do we do it where it entices athletes to come because they want to create their home here.” 

Nyanin even calls herself a transplant. She was born in Ghana, lived in five different countries in her youth and grew up on the East Coast of the United States. So, what does home mean to Nyanin in her new role? 

“I think that for a lot of WNBA players they have a home, they have where they've come from and then they've gone somewhere else for college and they've gone somewhere else in the offseason in Europe somewhere, in Australia, so then when they come back to the WNBA what can be considered home? 

“What Jess and I are building is Oakland and San Francisco,” Nyanin said. 

Details will continue to be hammered until they’re concrete. Plans are in place, yet not complete at this time. What’s next also is undeniable: From preps to college and the pros, there isn’t a better time for Golden State to be the WNBA’s next expansion franchise, and making all of the Bay Area become a long-term home to players, coaches and everybody else is an ongoing endeavor Smith and Nyanin are proud to push forward.

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