Eyeing a stronger presence in Asia, the WTA is moving its season-ending championships to Singapore for 2014-18 in a five-year deal worth more than $70 million.
``We're no different than any multinational corporation that looks for growth,'' WTA Chairman and CEO Stacey Allaster said Wednesday in a telephone interview from Singapore. ``You just have to look at GDP potential and potential for growth and the billions of fans we can reach in this territory.''
The tournament, which invites the top eight singles players and will go from four to eight doubles teams, will increase its prize money by $500,000 to $6.5 million next year, staying in line with the men's ATP finals.
Allaster said prize money at the WTA event in Singapore ``will definitely grow'' over the course of the agreement.
``How much it will grow remains to be determined,'' she said.
Allaster declined to say how much the new deal is worth to the WTA, but she said it is for more annually than the tour's expiring arrangement with Istanbul, Turkey, which was worth $14 million a year from 2011-13.
The championships will be held at the $1 billion Singapore Sports Hub's 7,500-seat indoor stadium. Singapore was chosen over the other two finalists - Monterrey, Mexico, and Tianjin, China.
By adding a Singapore stop to its calendar, the WTA will have 23 tournaments in the Asia-Pacific market in 2014, more than any other region in the world, according to the tour.
``New markets and new fans and new financial opportunities, long term,'' Allaster said.
Singapore is the ninth city to host the WTA Championships following Boca Raton, Fla.; Los Angeles; Oakland, Calif.; New York; Munich; Madrid; Doha, Qatar; and Istanbul.
Serena Williams, who is currently ranked No. 1, won the 2012 singles title at the year-end tournament in Istanbul.
After doing a two-year agreement with Madrid, and three years apiece with Doha and Istanbul, the WTA sought a longer deal this time.
``We chose five years. That was our minimum requirement,'' Allaster said. ``We wanted more financial stability. It represents 35 to 40 percent of the net operating revenues. It's the largest revenue source for us, so the three-year cycle creates instability. ... (And it's) a more compelling financial opportunity for the marketplace.''
In addition to increasing the number of doubles entrants, the WTA will add events to the championships schedule, including exhibition matches featuring past stars, music concerts, fan festivals and a conference focusing on women in business and leadership.
``That will really create a fusion between sport and entertainment,'' Allaster said, ``very much like the NFL and NBA have done through their Super Bowls, All-Star game and so forth.''
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