Storm CEO Karen Bryant is a key player in Pac-12 women's tournament move to Seattle
Karen Bryant, CEO and president of the WNBA's Storm, will play a key role in promoting the Pac-12 women's basketball tournament, which will move to KeyArena beginning next season.
Seattle Times staff reporter
Fitting that Karen Bryant began her career in construction.
Bryant, the Storm's CEO and president, is working to build a women's basketball community with the Pac-12. The conference announced Monday it has linked with Force 10 Hoops Sports Marketing, the Seattle Center and the Seattle Sports Commission to bring the Pac-12 women's tournament to KeyArena in 2013.
The deal, which extends through 2015, has been a goal of Bryant's for some time. Bryant was named CEO in December of the Force 10 marketing/consulting firm that's separate from the Storm. The Pac-12 tournament is the first project for the group.
"Having played, there are so many fond memories and so much had to do with the atmosphere and the way our team was embraced by the community," said Bryant, who played for Washington in 1991 under Chris Gobrecht, back when the Huskies women outdrew the men. After injuries ended her career early, Bryant began work as a construction consultant, then landed her first position in professional basketball with the defunct American Basketball League.
Bryant was hired by the Storm in 1999, helping to transition the team from a union with the NBA to independent ownership under Seattle-based businesswomen in 2008. The Storm has increased its attendance by 10 percent the past two seasons, averaging 8,658 in 2011.
The Pac-12 wants a similar draw for its women's tournament. The format began in 2002, attracting a total of 27,415 for a four-day event at Oregon's McArthur Court. It moved to the HP Pavilion in 2003, averaging 18,000 until moving, again, to USC's Galen Center in 2009.
Some thought at the time that was mistake, and the numbers confirmed it. Just 7,720 fans attended the four-day session last week as Stanford won its ninth conference tournament.
"Attendance is a big part of what we're going to be focused on," said Bryant, who wouldn't disclose the financial gain for Force 10 Sports Marketing. "(It's the) reason why I think they've chosen to partner with us. What we've been able to do with the Storm in terms of building the fan base not only in numbers, but in passion, we're going to do everything we can to try to bring that to the conference tournament."
Bryant, whose growing 35-member staff will be focused on both the Storm and the Pac-12 tournament, is in preliminary talks with her marketing team about how to boost interest. But she expects it will be a seasonlong campaign highlighting player personalities and utilizing all media platforms.
Television exposure was another motivator for the move. The Pac-12 network lunches this summer and more than 20 women's basketball games will be aired nationally. The entire tournament will be televised, with the championship game broadcast on ESPN2.
Commissioner Larry Scott wants to make a good first impression, meaning no empty seats. KeyArena is configured to seat 9,686 during Storm games. The facility has a maximum capacity of 17,072.
And although Scott was a proponent of having the men's and women's semifinal and championship rounds together at Staples Center the past two seasons, the move to Seattle will actually give the Pac-12 more exposure nationally. It'll be a week before the men's tournament in Las Vegas.
It'll also give those advancing to postseason play an extra week of rest. To accommodate the change next year, however, Pac-12 teams will play home-and-home sets with their rivals in the same week.
"They're a group that's making it happen for women's basketball in Seattle," Scott said of Bryant and Storm owners Dawn Trudeau, Lisa Brummel and Ginny Gilder. "We love the idea of being with a group that are leaders in this area and already know how to nurture and market this product."
Jayda Evans: 206-464-2067 or email@example.com. On Twitter @JaydaEvans.