SAN FRANCISCO — The Pac-12 women’s basketball tournament is headed to the Pacific Northwest next spring: Seattle’s Key Arena.
Commissioner Larry Scott on Monday announced a three-year deal for the move to Seattle, where there’s already a strong fan base for women’s basketball because of the success of the WNBA’s Storm.
The Pac-12 men’s tournament is set for Las Vegas next March. Scott is scheduled to make it official in Vegas on Tuesday, announcing a new deal with the MGM Grand during a news conference.
On Monday, his focus was on the new home of the women’s event.
“Seattle is one of the most prolific women’s basketball markets in the country,” Scott said. “We’re very much looking forward to building a dynamic atmosphere in Seattle and making it one of the premier conference tournaments in the country.”
The combined men’s and women’s event wrapped up its run in Los Angeles on Saturday, coinciding with the end of the conference’s current television contracts. The women had played their tournament in L.A. for the past four seasons after six years in San Jose.
“We’re very excited the Pac-12 tournament will move to Seattle,” Stanford coach Tara VanDerveer said. “Seattle has a great history of supporting women’s basketball and it’s great to be in a place that will help grow our tournament.”
Scott said there were “multiple bidders” for the women’s tournament, and during visits to Seattle he was “impressed with the enthusiasm and the passion.”
“They are a model franchise in the WNBA that’s consistently been one of the leaders in attendance,” Scott said. “We’re focused on providing our student-athletes with a wonderful tournament experience and we’re delighted they will play on the same floor as the two-time WNBA champions.”
The women’s tournament will be moved to a week earlier, ahead of the men’s tournament, which Scott said will allow all games to be televised. During the season, more than 40 women’s games will be shown on ESPN and the Pac-12 Networks.
“Next year is a real game-changer,” Scott said.
Seattle is committed to keeping the women’s tournament beyond the initial three-year agreement.
Karen Bryant, a former player at Washington and CEO of Force 10 Sports Marketing, LLC, is already planning on it.
“We are passionate about women’s basketball and we have a track record for success,” she said. “Probably most important, we bring a fan base. We’re in it for the long haul.”
The coaches already envision a great atmosphere in a beautiful city.
“I think it’s a terrific location, very women’s basketball friendly and supportive,” California coach Lindsay Gottlieb said. “It’s a place where Pac-12 women’s basketball has and can continue to develop a brand.”
Scott noted last week that Las Vegas already hosts three college basketball tournaments: the Mountain West on the UNLV campus, and the Western Athletic and West Coast tournaments at Orleans Arena. Los Angeles also bid to keep the Pac-12.
The women’s tournament has been held under several formats over the years, including being played in a different city, in the same city but a different location from the men, and under the most recent configuration — at Galen Center on the Southern California campus the first two days before joining the men at Staples Center for the last two.
“I’ve been here four seasons and played at the Staples Center,” Stanford men’s coach Johnny Dawkins said. “It’ll be a new venue. It’s something different but it’s exciting. Hopefully it will all work out for our conference.”