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Women Who Lead: Building a Legacy for Sports and Events in Seattle

Beth Knox poses at T-Mobile Park Stadium.

This past March, we celebrated Women’s History month to honor the contributions women have made and continue to make in society, history, and culture. Last month, the Office of Economic Development (OED) honored women in Seattle that are leading, innovating, and making impacts in key industries that are foundational to Seattle’s economic footing, culture, and growth.

Beth Knox is the current President and CEO of the Seattle Sports Commission, which serves as a resource to local sports teams and community, and attracts premier sporting events that bring economic and cultural impact to the region. Over the years, Beth has been a critical leader in the sports and entertainment business–leading and producing some of the most iconic events in Seattle. OED recently connected with Beth to learn more about her story and the work she is leading through the Seattle Sports Comision that is positively impacting our local economy and putting Seattle on a national and international stage.

Read more about Beth below! To hear her story in her own words, check out this video produced in partnership with Converge Media!

Beth Knox is interviewed in her office.

Tell us about yourself and your story.

I grew up in the Midwest and came to live with my sister in Seattle after college. I drove out here with a Public Relations degree and a sign in the back window saying, “Seattle or Bust.” My first full time job here was at Seafair where I was thrown into the deep end of the events industry. My co-workers were nearly all young, professional women and our boss, who was male, was a dynamic mentor who pushed us hard to operate as strong leaders.
From there I worked in another events organization for 8 years where I held a variety of leadership roles. This organization also had a number of strong, female leaders who felt confident voicing their opinions and ideas. Even though I loved this work environment, I ultimately left to take a position out of state where I was the CEO of a regional festival. It was hard to leave the safety and comfort of my work family, and move my personal family of a husband and twin four year old boys to start a new life in another location, but I knew it was necessary in order to advance my career.
Three years later we happily moved back to Seattle where I became the CEO of Seafair, the place I had started my career. I served in that role for 10 years before producing the Special Olympics National Games in 2018, and then took over the Seattle Sports Commission in 2020.

What led you to a career in events, sports and live entertainment industry—industries where women can be under-represented?

I grew up in a family and community where events were a regular occurrence, and yet special events wasn’t identified as an actual industry. While I didn’t seek it out, when I landed my first job at Seafair, the facets of it felt familiar and I took to it naturally. I was fortunate to have a lot of strong women as mentors and role models in my early work environments, as well as men who encouraged us. As a result, if I found myself feeling under-represented, I didn’t let it intimidate me or stop me from holding my place at the table.

Beth Knox is interviewed outside T-Mobile Park Stadium.

Share with us your experiences producing and executing iconic events that are staple to the Seattle experience.

I have worked on events like Seafair – the region’s largest community festival that is part of the fabric of Seattle that has enhanced our city’s vibrancy and served as the basis of thousands of memories for people. I loved helping to bring those quintessential, summer experiences like the Torchlight Parade or Hydroplane Race or the Blue Angels that have brought joy to so many people. I have also worked on event like Summer Nights at the Pier, Bumbershoot, 4th of July Fireworks Show over Lake Union and the Special Olympics USA Games.

What led you to the Seattle Sports Commission as President and CEO?

Throughout my time at Seafair I had the opportunity to work with some of the sports teams. An athlete would be Grand Marshall of the Parade, or we’d host them at our events. In 2014 when the Seahawks won the Super Bowl, the City of Seattle asked us to produce the Victory Parade. Then, when the Sounders won the MLS Cup, twice, we produced those celebration parades. Later, I engaged all the teams in the Special Olympics USA Games. Throughout all of this, I nurtured relationships and earned their trust, so when the opportunity came to lead the sports commission, it was a natural next step.

Special events, sports, and the entertainment industries are real economic drivers for Seattle, from your perspective why is that?

Events, sports and entertainment bring tourism to the region, resulting in hotel stays and visitors going to our restaurants, bars and local businesses. Secondly, sports and entertainment influence the culture of our city and generates pride for our city that helps retain and grow our population. When we have a strong fan base for events, more locals eat out before attending the games and buying team merchandise!

Beth Knox talks with Karissa Braxton (OED) inside T-Mobile Park Stadium.

What opportunities are there for our local workforce, especially women and women of color women of color in the sports and events industry? 

Seattle is leading the way with women leaders in the sports and events industry. Two of our 7 professional sports teams have women CEOs, four of the teams have women majority owners, two of our Division I universities have women athletic directors. There are a tremendous number of roles required to make every game and event a great experience. Our industry is committed to a diverse workforce and we want people who are eager to learn, and who bring their voice and skills to the table.

What have been your greatest success and challenges in your career?

Some of my greatest successes have come out of my greatest challenges. For example, surviving the great recession by making dramatic but necessary budget cuts or anticipating the impact of government sequestration that canceled the Blue Angels by proactively booking a civilian performance jet team. If sequestration didn’t happen, then I would be paying for two jet teams, but it was a risk I was willing to take and it paid off when sequestration did occur. After planning the Opening Ceremony for the Special Olympics USA Games for nearly a year, our contracted production company quit 6 months from the event. We had to quickly secure and onboard a new company to create an iconic event for the athletes, spectators and ESPN’s live broadcast. Our renewed focus on the show ultimately created what Special Olympics International has said was the best opening ceremony for any national games.

And in my current role at the Sports Commission, I am proud we have leveraged the momentum around sports to help revitalize our city and put our city on a national and global stage with the sports events we’re hosting.

Beth Knox is interviewed in her office.

What can Seattle look forward to from the sports and events industries and the Seattle Sports Commission this year and in the near future?

This March Seattle is hosting the NCAA Women’s Basketball Sweet Sixteen and Elite 8. This summer we’ll host the MLB All-Star Game, in the fall the National Flag Football Gay Bowl 23 at Magnussen Park, and the NHL Winter Classic at T-Mobile Park on New Year’s Day

There are a number of other events but a future highlight is the 2026 FIFA World Cup!

What are your hopes and dreams for your future?

My dream is that Seattle is a world-class sports market that regularly hosts premier events. I dream just as fervently that every child in our state has easy access to free play. That all barriers are removed for our youth to play a sport or have regular recreation. That is my hope for the future.

Beth Knox reflects in T-Mobile Park Stadium.