Squashing the Competition

Don’t tell Shabana Khan she can’t. The feisty Khan can accomplish ambitious goals.

Khan, who brought the Women’s World Squash Championships to Seattle in 1999, was hoping to bring the tournament back in 2015. However, those dreams were, ahem, squashed after the Professional Squash Association had to honor a previous agreement to host the championships in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.

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Photo courtesy “Expectation” ©2012 Jon Silver, used under a creative commons attribution license

Not to be outdone, she was awarded the Men’s World Squash Championships to be hosted at the newly renovated Meydenbauer Center in Bellevue, Nov. 15-22. It will be the first time in the history of the sport that the championships, the pinnacle in squash, will be hosted on U.S. soil.

The championships will draw players from 27 countries, including Canada, England, Egypt, France, and Malaysia, competing for a piece of the $325,000 total prize money, the largest in the history of the sport.

“The players have been waiting for America to step up and do this event,” said Khan, who grew up in West Seattle and picked up the sport at the age of 13 at her father’s Seattle Racquet Club in West Seattle. Turning pro at the age of 18, she eventually was ranked No. 1 in the U.S. and as high as 23rd in the world.

She now coaches squash at the Bellevue Pro Sports Club and worked tirelessly to bring the World Championships to Bellevue.

Renovations to the Meydenbauer Center and continued commercial property development, including new hotels, are adding a polish for Bellevue to shine in front of a global audience.

The Seattle Marriott Bellevue opened in July, adding nearly 400 hotel rooms to the city and bringing the total rooms in Bellevue to 4,900, including 2,500 in the downtown core. Another 800 rooms will be added in the next two years when the upscale AC Marriott and Hotel W are completed.

The championship qualifying rounds will be Nov. 13-14 at the Pro Sports Club in Bellevue. The main draw of the tournament starts on Nov. 15 at the Meydenbauer Center after a $12.5 million face-lift funded by the sale of the old convention center and tax-exempt bonds. Temporary glass-encased courts will take two days to build and will seat 1,100 spectators. Tickets range from $100 for single early-round matches to $2,500 for VIP tournament passes.

The tournament will be broadcast online by the Professional Squash Association’s Squash TV. The finals and semifinals will be broadcast live on the Tennis Channel. Khan also hopes the tournament will be televised on a local sports cable channel.

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Photo by Rachel Davidson

Sharon Linton, marketing and communications manager for the tourism advocacy organization Visit Bellevue Washington, estimates a $1.6 million economic impact from the tournament. Khan anticipates more than 10,000 tickets to the World Championships will be sold.

“One of the things we are most excited about is the overall exposure; the exposure of our city to an international audience,” said Hinton.

Khan’s work will not be finished once the world champion is crowned. She has dreams of making Bellevue an annual stop in the Professional Squash Association’s tour for both men and women. And she is lobbying to the International Olympic Committee to recognize squash as an Olympic sport by the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo.

What: Men’s World Squash Championships.
When: Main draw, Nov. 15-22 (Qualifying tournament, Nov. 13-14).
Where: Main Draw, Meydenbauer Center in Bellevue; qualifying tournament, Pro Sports Club in Bellevue.
Tickets: From $100 for single tickets for early-round matches up to $2,500 for VIP tournament passes.
Why you should care: It’s the first time the United States has hosted the World Championships.
More information + tickets.

Top Photo: “Expectation” ©2012 Jon Silver, used under a creative commons attribution license; Bottom photo by Rachel Davidson

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