Coco Gauff practicing with Serena Williams ahead of the United States’ Fed Cup tie against Latvia in … [+]
Before now, the international Fed Cup tennis event has never been to Washington state. What a first time to come to the Evergreen State as the five-person Fed Cup team competes in Everett’s Angel of the Winds Arena on Feb. 7 and Feb. 8 with the likes of Serena Williams, Coco Gauff and recent Australian Open champion Sofia Kenin. The star-packed lineup on the court equates to a sold out 6,300-seat arena.
Everyone is just giddy about what it all means.
The USTA, which runs the American-hosted “tie” against Latvia as the United States looks to win the best-of-five country-versus-country team match in an effort to qualify to the 12-country Fed Cup final in Hungary in April, loves the excitement from both the community and sponsors. Washington tennis fans — especially Spectra, operators of the Everett arena located 30 miles north of Seattle — have gobbled up the opportunity to see high-level tennis at home. It all adds up to what will likely be the highest-grossing Fed Cup event hosted in the 55-year history of the USTA.
“This is definitely a dream team in the midst of a perfect storm,” says Jeff Ryan, USTA director of team events. “Marquee players contribute to the success of these ties. Personalities influence.” But even before Williams was announced as part of the team — part of 2020 Olympics qualifying includes having Fed Cup experience — ticket sales and sponsorship was strong.
Everett, Washington, is hosting Fed Cup.
Seattle-based Amazon is one of three main sponsors of the event, along with Everett-based Funko. Boeing, with its strong Everett base, while not an official sponsor, hosted private team events at the nearby Museum of Flight. Fans sold out the tennis event in advance of the American team arriving in Washington.
Ryan says the USTA had been wanting to get to or near Seattle for years. Coming to Everett fits the Fed Cup bill of landing near a major urban center, but just far enough outside it that the Fed Cup event takes over the calendar of events for the weekend, while still drawing from the urban center.
“Sales are amazing,” says Corey Margolis, general manager of Angel of the Winds Arena. “The response and demand have been incredible, both locally and from distance. People are excited.”
Even while the Angel of the Winds Arena offers more seats than the Fed Cup usually plays in front of, Ryan admits they could have gone even bigger with this tie. Still, he expects the sold-out crowd will wrap themselves in red, white and blue and create a unique experience.
Along with the two days of tennis, the USTA comes in and runs youth events — some members of the American team of Williams, Gauff, Kenin, Alison Riske and Bethanie Mattek-Sands participated in a youth camp on Tuesday, Feb. 4 — and works to visit clubs, create new partners and hold small events, seminars, recruitment efforts and plenty more while in town for the week. “The opportunity is there,” Ryan says, “for all these different parts of the USTA to contribute to the overall mission and we do a very good job of that.”
The 2018 and 2019 tie locations have seen a 12 percent increase in USTA League participation, a 20 percent increase in annual pass holders and a 90 percent increase in junior play at flagship tennis facilities.
Alison Riske at a youth event ahead of Fed Cup in Everett, Washington.
Williams says the event helps grow the game. “There are only a few tournaments in selective states and women’s tennis does not get to play in a lot of areas,” Williams says. “With Fed Cup we can go to states and parts of the country that aren’t represented.”
Some countries across the world keep their national events sequestered to just a short list of venues. The U.S., though, works to move events around when it can. Since 1964, the USTA has hosted Fed Cup ties 49 times in 30 venues across 17 states. The first visit to Washington, though, comes on the heels of two recent ties in Asheville, North Carolina (2018 and 2019), a visit to San Antonio (2019) and two different Hawaiian stops (2016 and 2017).
The venue in Everett outpaces all those others in size. With the first Asheville event, in February 2018, attracting over $3 million in direct spending and nearly $5 million in total business spending, the benefit to Snohomish County and Everett will likely pass those numbers. That works out just fine for the USTA, Angel of the Winds Arena, Washington tennis fans and the five-member team wearing the stars and stripes in front of a sold-out 6,300-capacity crowd.
“This town is ready for Fed Cup to be here,” Riske says. “I am honored to play in front of such an awesome atmosphere and hopefully everyone is cheering loud for us.”