BY SPNW Staff 12:30PM 03/12/2012

Pac-12 Women’s Hoops Tourney Headed To Seattle

The fan base developed by the WNBA’s Seattle Storm played a key role in the Pac-12′s decision to move its postseason women’s tournament to KeyArena at the Seattle Center.

The Pac-12 women's basketball tournament will be played at KeyArena at least through 2015. / Sportspress Northwest file

Calling Seattle “one of the most prolific women’s basketball markets in the country,” Pac-12 Conference Commissioner Larry Scott announced Monday that the league’s postseason tournament will be at KeyArena at least through 2015. The Pac-12′s men’s and women’s tournaments were contested at Staples Center in Los Angeles.

The 2013 women’s tournament will be be March 7-10. ESPN2 will televise the championship game, while all other games will be carried on the Pac-12 Network.

The men’s tournament is also leaving Los Angeles and moving to Las Vegas, which is hosting three other men’s league tournaments (Western Athletic, Mountain West and West Coast conferences). Scott will provide details of the deal with the MGM Grand Arena, where a news conference is scheduled Tuesday.

“We are extremely proud of the rich heritage the Pac-12 has in women’s basketball and we feel strongly that this new partnership will enhance the tournament experience for our student-athletes and fans,” Scott said.

“Seattle is a beautiful city that has proven to be a prolific women’s basketball market. Force 10 Sports Marketing shares our commitment and passion for women’s sports and we look forward to growing the tournament together.”

The conference selected Seattle as the new site primarily because of the Seattle Storm’s strong fan base. The tournament never attracted much attention in LA, its crowds sparse  and TV ratings non-existent.

“This is a fantastic opportunity for Seattle and the Pac-12 Conference,” said Karen Bryant, CEO of Force 10 Sports Marketing and the Storm’s chief executive. “We are tremendously excited about working together to deliver a first-class event for the participants, fans and the community. This region is passionate about basketball and an ideal destination for this championship tournament.”

Scott said he had been an advocate of staging the men’s and women’s tournaments at the same site and same days, but finally recognized the men’s event dwarfed its counterpart in LA. He changed his mind when the women agreed to move the dates a week of the men, as well as having a separate venue. That will create a week off between the league tourney and the start of the women’s NCAA tourney.

Moving the dates and location “allows the event to get the broadcast and national attention it deserves,” Scott said. “When we uncovered the interest of Karen Bryant and the Storm, it made the move even easier.”

Scott and Bryant declined to identify any other bid cities. The move was hastened by the end of the Pac-12′s contract with Fox Sports Network, which has a studio headquarters in Staples. The advent of Pac-12 Network, which debuts this fall, assures that every tourney game will be televised.

The Storm is consistently among the leaders in WNBA attendance, averaging 8,658 fans in 17 regular-season home games in 2011. The Storm increased attendance 10 percent the last two years.

“The Storm brings such tremendous spirit and community support to KeyArena at Seattle Center,” said Robert Nellams, Center director. “We look forward to welcoming these amazing young women and bringing the community back to the Key for more outstanding women’s basketball.”

The Seattle Sports Commission, which annually presents the Sports Star of the Year awards program, was instrumental in the successful bid.

“It is a great opportunity for us to show off our community to one of the premier conferences in the country and the thousands of fans that follow their member institutions,” said Ralph Morton, the commission’s executive director. “Seattle is an ideal destination for hosting major events and this tournament will be a great addition to the sports calendar for our region.”

The conference’s premier women’s sports event will enter its 12th season in 2013. The tournament made its debut in 2002 and has been held in Eugene and San Jose before moving to Los Angeles.

Bryant, a former UW player, called the move “a true partnership for four organizations”  — Pac-12, Storm, Seattle Center and the sports commission — and promised to “take full advantage of our fan base and one of the finest front offices in sports to give the players, coaches and school staffs the event they deserve.”


YourThoughts

  • RadioGuy

    Seattle should draw better for this tournament than Los Angeles has, although that bar hasn’t been set particularly high.  Still, it’ll be interesting to see how many people actually come out to watch games here.  Husky women’s basketball hasn’t been a hot ticket since the Chris Gobrecht era, and the UW drew more than 3,000 just two times this winter.  What’ll the attendance be when it’s Colorado-Arizona State?  Do they really need a venue as large as KeyArena to hold it in?

  • RadioGuy

    Seattle should draw better for this tournament than Los Angeles has, although that bar hasn’t been set particularly high.  Still, it’ll be interesting to see how many people actually come out to watch games here.  Husky women’s basketball hasn’t been a hot ticket since the Chris Gobrecht era, and the UW drew more than 3,000 just two times this winter.  What’ll the attendance be when it’s Colorado-Arizona State?  Do they really need a venue as large as KeyArena to hold it in?

  • Bear Fan

    How do you get tickets to the women’s BB tourament in March 7 through 13? Are there packages for fans coming from the Bay Area?