HOLDING COURT: Angel of the Winds Arena, managed by Spectra, is ready for event play Friday and Saturday. (Courtesy Angel of the Winds Arena)
U.S.-Latvia women’s tennis event comes to Angel of the Winds Arena
Angel of the Winds Arena in Everett, Wash., will play host to what could be the highest-grossing event in the U.S. Tennis Association’s 55-year history with the Fed Cup on Friday and Saturday when the U.S. faces Latvia there.
The countries will play a best-of-five competition, known as a tie, on a single court at the arena to determine which will advance in the Fed Cup, the World Cup of women’s tennis. The first country to win three matches will advance to April’s world finals, a 12-team event in Budapest, Hungary.
As the U.S. team of Serena Williams, Coco Gauff, Sofia Kenin, Alison Riske and Bethanie Mattek-Sands prepares for the Everett event, Corey Margolis, general manager of Angel of the Winds Arena, said his team’s preparation wasn’t what you’d expect.
“It moved very fast and quite late in the game, as I believe is the nature of the Fed Cup,” he said. The arena was awarded the event in November.
“They don’t know very early exactly when or where or if they are going to host one of the ties,” he said. “When it came together, we quickly and excitedly put together a bid. Spectra has a long history of working with the Fed Cup and USTA.”
Jeff Ryan, USTA’s director of team events, said the short window to plan for an event isn’t for every venue, but he said getting the right fit is about relationships. By working with two or three management companies, “my job for the USTA for the last 23 years is to cultivate and harvest and maintain those management companies to pull together venue options for us to select from.”
His ability to pick up the phone and talk to management companies affords the USTA options in crunch time. And landing in Everett in a Spectra-managed building brings the USTA just north of the Seattle market, which “we had wanted to get to for a long time.”
The two days of tennis at Angel of the Winds Arena sold out the 6,300 tickets a day in advance. The announcement of Williams to the team helped push the final wave of ticket sales in early January — to qualify for the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo, players must have played in Fed Cup — but Margolis said sales were strong even before then.
It all equates, Ryan said, to what will become possibly the top-grossing Fed Cup event in the U.S. in the history of the USTA, which has hosted 49 ties in 30 venues across 17 states since 1964. This is the first time the Fed Cup is coming to Washington state.
“The ticket sales and sponsorships are there,” Ryan said. “We are going to have a full crowd that is excited and rooting for our team.”
The planning of the event started with the USTA getting to know the 16-year-old arena and the venue’s capabilities, Margolis said. To prep for Fed Cup, Angel of the Winds Arena installed upgrades to Wi-Fi access, cabling and phone system. The arena, known for hosting minor league hockey, concerts and family events, also performed a retrofit of in-arena lighting by putting in high-output LED bulbs. “We had confidence we’d probably be OK but wanted to be sure of it with the right levels,” Margolis said. “We have made sure we have more than enough light for this tournament. That was a big project, and credit to our industrious staff.”
The upgrades give the arena more flexibility to light different areas on the floor. “We are a very versatile, flexible building with the first number of rows retractable,” Margolis said. “We are built to do events beyond our NHL-size rink, but the lighting was designed for the rink. This will provide benefit for hockey and any other event.”
The installation of the tennis court happens over an ice deck. While a common practice in arena usage, international tennis doesn’t typically lay a court over hockey ice. Margolis said his team belayed any concerns about moisture by adding additional material to the deck.
Angel of the Winds Arena, which Margolis said typically doesn’t have an entire week open in its schedule during the hockey season, by luck had this window open and started the conversion from hockey to tennis immediately after the Everett Silvertips of the Canadian Hockey League on Jan. 31.
The facility will host practices, but its first official event is a draw ceremony in ballroom space Thursday, ahead of two matches on Friday evening and the potential for three matches starting Saturday afternoon.
Margolis, a 2019 VenuesNow Generation Next honoree, said the arena created a new website with an interactive map to help familiarize newcomers with the building and its food options. By leaning on knowledge from the larger Spectra team, the Everett facility is tailoring its menu to a tennis clientele, whether creating more grab-and-go options, changing action stands to provide different options such as fish and chips and a local potato bar or upping the craft beer selection.
Ryan said hosting in Everett is a perfect fit for the USTA. While countries around the world often stick with a short list of venues for their team events, the United States is “blessed with lots of options” and moving the event around helps build the mission of the USTA across the country. In 2019, for example, Fed Cup ties occurred in Asheville, N.C., and San Antonio. Asheville also hosted in 2018 and two Hawaiian locations (2016 and 2017) and a resort outside of Tampa (2017) hosted before that. But the USTA had never brought the Fed Cup near Seattle, and Everett, 30 miles north, fits the bill of coming into a secondary (and sometimes tertiary) market.
“I think we have to confess to wanting to be in markets that are not full of conflicting events,” Ryan said. “We know we are not the Super Bowl, but this is high-level tennis. We are close enough to draw from (Seattle), but far enough to stand on our own.”
The Everett event has also attracted sponsorships from Seattle-based Amazon via Amazon Prime Video, from Everett-based Funko and national sponsor Avis.
While the 6,300 seats aren’t the most for a U.S. Fed Cup event, it skews larger than the average. “It is a great size for us and is slightly larger than we have experienced in the last five to seven years,” Ryan said. “(The sellout) states the state of women’s tennis in the U.S., being very healthy and strong. It is showing in the crowd.”