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Volume 24 No. 219
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WTA Continues Major Push Into China Market With 10-Year Deal For Finals In Shenzhen

The WTA Tour is moving its season-ending finals to Shenzhen, China, next year in a 10-year deal that the circuit described as a $1B transaction and the largest one ever in women’s sports. Shenzhen and Chinese real estate firm Gemdale Corp. will build a $450M indoor tennis venue, with prize money starting at $14M annually, nearly double the amount to be awarded this November in Singapore. The main venue will hold up to 15,000 fans. “This is a major infusion of new capital, and that is huge for us because it gives us the chance to really grow the sport,” said WTA President Micky Lawler, who negotiated the contract. Many of the details remain to be sorted out, Lawler said, like how much the WTA will receive for promotional and marketing purposes. The WTA also will open an office in Shenzhen. It is uncertain if that means the WTA would close its Beijing office. The WTA currently has nine events in China, including one in Shenzhen in January. The fate of that event is unclear. Lawler said there are no outs in the 10-year deal because Gemdale needed that commitment to justify the capital spend (Daniel Kaplan, Staff Writer). 

APPEALING TO THE MASSES: In N.Y., Christopher Clarey writes the deal "deepens the tour’s emphasis on China." Clarey notes WTA CEO Steve Simon "declined to divulge the amount of the WTA’s rights fee but said it was a major increase on the existing five-year deal with Singapore." Simon said that going to Shenzhen is a "huge deal,” but added it was "not simply a case of chasing the highest offer." He said that the move also "had to make sense strategically." Simon: "Shenzhen and the Delta region down there is the new Silicon Valley of Asia." Simon also confirmed that Singapore was "one of five finalists in the bidding" for the event, along with Prague (Czech Republic), Manchester (England) and St. Petersburg (Russia). He said that there were "no North American finalists" (N.Y. TIMES, 1/18). The AP's Justin Bergman wrote the move "represents a significant investment in the China market at a time when the sport is aggressively expanding its reach in the country, with the addition of a number of new tournaments in recent years." But attendance has "been a concern at ATP and WTA events in China in recent years, particularly at tournaments in cities such as Wuhan and Tianjin." However, Simon believes the WTA Finals will "attract a sizable audience in a major metropolitan region like the Pearl River Delta." Simon: "You have 20 million people in that downtown district, plus 68 million in the entire delta region" (AP, 1/17).