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Pac-12 picks KeyArena for women’s tourney

Pac-12 women’s basketball has a new home in the Northwest.

In a move that commissioner Larry Scott said will generate unprecedented television exposure for the sport and a better game atmosphere, the Pac-12 announced Monday that it has reached a 3-year agreement to play the Pac-12 women’s tournament at KeyArena in Seattle beginning next season.

The Pac-12 teamed with Seattle Center, the Seattle Sports Commission and Force 10 Sports Marketing LLC, the ownership group of the Seattle Storm, to move the women’s tournament from Los Angeles, where it spent the past four seasons after six years in San Jose.

“You couldn’t pick a better city for women’s basketball, professionally or collegiately,” said WSU coach June Daugherty. “The gals who run the Seattle Storm, they will make it a first-class event for the players, the coaches, the media and the fans.”

Scott called Seattle “one of the most prolific women’s basketball markets in the country,” and said the conference decided on KeyArena despite bids from other cities.

The conference was impressed by the well-established fan base of the Seattle Storm, which boasts two WNBA championships and drew an average home attendance of 8,659 in 2011.

The tournament will be held one week prior to the Pac-12 men’s tournament, meaning teams will likely face their rival twice in the same week during the regular season in order to condense their conference schedule.

Scott is expected to announce at a press conference today that the men’s tournament will move to the MGM Grand in Las Vegas next season.

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