Force 10 Sports Management, the parent company behind the WNBA’s Storm, announced that it will take over ticketing, service operations and a portion of digital marketing for the National Women’s Soccer League Reign.
A deal amalgamating the Seattle Reign’s ticketing and service operations under the Seattle Storm management umbrella continues an emerging trend for local sports teams outside North America’s major professional realm.
The move, announced Monday, sees Force 10 Sports Management, the parent company behind the WNBA Storm, taking over those business aspects — and a portion of digital marketing — for the Reign at a key point in that squad’s relatively young history.
The National Women’s Soccer League announced last week the Boston Breakers had folded, a move that follows the Kansas City franchise disbanding and its players relocating to a Salt Lake City expansion team.
Storm president and general manager Alisha Valavanis said its deal is unrelated to the NWSL news and added it simply makes sense for the Storm and Reign to join forces at a time both are seeking attention amid a crowded Seattle sports landscape.
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“I do hope that we can show a model and put a model in place that is mutually beneficial to the smaller organizations,” Valavanis said, adding, “Shared resources and looking at how both parties can benefit has been a part of it.”
Last fall, the Sounders announced their second division Sounders2 franchise in the United Soccer League would have its business operations handled by the Class AAA Tacoma Rainiers baseball team starting this year. The Sounders launched as a Major League Soccer franchise in 2009 with the NFL Seahawks as a minority partner handling all business operations until 2015.
The Storm’s situation is somewhat different in that the WNBA began in 1997 with each of its first eight franchises affiliated with an NBA team.
The Storm formed in 2000 and was owned by the NBA’s Sonics. But when Sonics owner Clay Bennett moved the team to Oklahoma City in 2008, Force 10 Hoops LLC formed to buy the Storm and keep it in Seattle.
Today, seven of the WNBA’s dozen teams — the Storm, Los Angeles Sparks, Atlanta Dream, Chicago Sky, Connecticut Sun, Dallas Wings and Las Vegas Aces — are independently owned. And the New York Liberty has been placed on the market by Knicks owner James Dolan and could become the league’s eighth independently operated franchise.
The Storm’s Force 10 parent company has been growing its overall sports business, taking over in 2012 as host of the Pac-12 Women’s Basketball Championships at KeyArena.
The company also hosted 2017 WNBA All-Star Game and Jamal Crawford’s 2015 Summer Pro-Am.
“We continue to look at long-term financial sustainability and really building out a business that’s viable and thriving,” Valavanis said. “With this arm of our business, the sports management, we see potential.”
She added, “This is a really unique opportunity to partner with and bring on board another women’s professional sports organization that we believe the partnership can support.”
Besides the Reign deal, the Storm has signed a separate pact to handle public relations and consulting work for the Seattle Seawolves Major League Rugby team.
In both cases, the Storm will be paid a fixed amount for its services rather than operating on a percentage of the business brought in.
Reign owner Bill Predmore said the Storm’s “mature set of processes” in ticketing should boost his franchise’s revenue and allow him to focus on other aspects of the team’s business. The Reign averaged 4,037 fans per home game at Memorial Stadium last season, down from 4,599 in 2016 and 4,060 in 2015.
“The end goal for us is pretty obvious — we’d like to sell as many tickets as possible,” Predmore said, adding, “there was no real reason to create parallel or redundant organizations. I think they’ve done a very good job of both selling and servicing their clients and customers.”
Predmore agrees that, while the motivations are slightly different, his deal is similar to the Sounders-Rainiers partnership in terms of finding mutually beneficial synergies.
“The idea of finding partnerships that allow you to provide better service and better experience at a lower cost is something that probably all teams are looking to do,” he said.
Predmore said despite the Boston franchise’s demise, the NWSL should remain stable given increased MLS interest in supporting franchises.
Valavanis said, “My focus is on the short game here and on trying to work with Bill (Predmore) to position the Reign for long-term success.”