WELLAND — She is one of the most powerful women in professional sports, and she is from Welland.
Now Stacey Allaster is the winner of the H.L. Cudney Memorial Sportsman of the Year Award for 2009.
“We had a couple of really good nominations this year, but her credentials were just amazing. She has done so much for tennis on a worldwide scale,” Garret Smits, chair of the award selection committee, said in announcing the winner.
Allaster is the chair and chief executive officer of the Women’s Tennis Association. She was appointed to the position in July, succeeding out-going CEO Larry Scott.
"I was really surprised when Garret called me," Allaster said Thursday night.
The person who nominated Allaster for the award was Al DiCenso, her mixed doubles tennis partner when they were teenagers in Welland. Together, Allaster and DiCenso won the mixed doubles championship three years in a row.
In her younger years, Allaster, now 46, was a member of the Welland Tennis Club, where she learned how to play the game. She also taught tennis to children and adults. When Allaster left the club, she joined the Ontario Tennis Association, where she held positions such as membership sales co-ordinator and director of player development during her three years there.
She then moved on to Tennis Canada and became tour director in charge of such tour events as the Rogers Cup. Allaster was the only female tour director in the Masters Series. From 2001 to 2005, tournament revenues grew by 300%, while attendance grew by 50%. She also negotiated $200 million in sponsorship agreements while with the organization. Allaster also played a large role in building Toronto's Rexall Centre, the venue where the Rogers Cup is played every year. Sources say it cost $40 million to build the facility.
In 2006, the WTA came calling and offered her the job of president, which she accepted.
Last month, The Globe and Mail selected Allaster as the eighth most powerful person in Canadian sports. Fellow Wellander and Toronto Blue Jays CEO Paul Beeston is No. 23 on the list. Beeston is also a Welland sportsman of the year, winning the Cudney award in 1998.
"I always think it's an honour when you are recognized by industry leaders," Allaster said.
Allaster has a bachelor’s degree in economics and physical education from the University of Western Ontario and an MBA from the university’s Ivey School of Business.
Allaster, who was born in Windsor but raised in Welland, attended St. Kevin Catholic Elementary School and Notre Dame College School. She’s married to John Milkovich and the couple has two children, Jack and Alexandra.
Allaster, whose office is based in St. Petersburg, Fla., is expected to receive the H.L. Cudney Sportsman of the Year Award at the Welland Sports Promotion Committee's annual sports banquet that this year will be held Friday, April 9, at Casa Dante.
First presented in 1962, the award honours the late Harold L. Cudney, a funeral home founder who contributed greatly to sports at the community level in Welland.
Last year’s winner was professional lacrosse player Mike Hominuck. In 2008, former Niagara Knights basketball coach Ralph Nero and Special Olympian Matthew Maracle were co-winners.