Tennis Channel Open in search of new site
The Arizona Republic
May. 3, 2005 12:00 AM
The Tennis Channel Open faces the task of finding a new home, and the search could take the tournament to another state.
Steve Bellamy, president and founder of the Tennis Channel, said the Fairmont Scottsdale Princess, which has hosted pro tennis events in the Valley for 16 years, has ended its ties with the tournament.
"They are planning to expand the tournament quite a bit and beyond what the resort's tennis complex can really handle," Princess Resort spokesperson Jennifer Franklin said. "It has been a popular event and the Princess Resort was proud to host the event.
"Their plans to grow are fantastic, but we have seven courts here, and I think they need more than that. We're not going to be building more tennis courts here."
When the Tennis Channel purchased the tournament date from sports marketing conglomerate IMG just before last year's tournament, which was operated by IMG, Bellamy said the Tennis Channel also hoped to buy a women's pro event and hold it in conjunction with the men's event.
Bellamy reiterated those plans last Friday, adding that the Tennis Channel also hoped to bring in a senior event, a junior event and perhaps a collegiate event and a beach volleyball event.
Those ambitions would require a much larger facility. Bellamy said there are 10 possible Valley locations and he plans to travel from the Tennis Channel's regional corporate office in Santa Monica, Calif., to visit them this week.
"I'm not going to say who is the front-runner or even if the front-runner is in Arizona," Bellamy said. " . . . To be totally candid, there are three cities outside of Phoenix, or Arizona, who are very interested and have made fantastic offers."
Bellamy wouldn't be specific about out-of-town possibilities, but The Republic has learned that the Tennis Channel has talked with interests in Tampa, San Antonio, San Diego and Las Vegas, although Las Vegas reportedly has cooled considerably as a site.
"If you ask me whether the best offer you have today is in the state of Arizona, I would say, 'No,' " Bellamy said.
Tournament officials have held talks with the Pointe Hilton Resort on South Mountain, though that possibility is unlikely because of economics and in part because the Tennis Channel would like to keep the tournament in the Scottsdale area.
Possible Valley sites
• Scottsdale: An idea to build a tennis complex at Scottsdale's WestWorld was floated informally at the Scottsdale City Council but wasn't met with enthusiasm.
The Radisson Hotel in Scottsdale has served as a yearly host for the U.S. Tennis Association's Winter Nationals, but other than use of the tennis facilities by the Arizona Tennis Association, the property is closed and plans are to raze the entire property in October to construct condominiums.
"You never want to leave where you are," said Michael Benson, managing director of SponsorIQ, hired by the Tennis Channel to spearhead site selection. "There are a lot of longer-term options . . . you don't want to move spectators twice."
• Desert Ridge: J.W. Marriott's Desert Ridge Resort and Spa, near 52nd Street and north of the Loop 101,also has been mentioned.
• Surprise: The Surprise site has plans calling for construction of a $5 million, 25-court complex that will include a center court stadium that can be expanded to seat 5,000, along with 10 pickleball courts on land located east of Surprise Stadium and the city library.
Mark Coronado, director of the city's Community and Recreation Services Department, said Monday that the facility could be ready in a year.
The project has not been formally approved, but was presented to the mayor and city council last week, and is contingent on finding an anchor tenant and a facility management partner. Surprise is attempting to lure the USTA Southwest, or the ATA as an anchor tenant.
Coronado said the city also must deliver to the potential anchor tenant and the facility manager a plan for infrastructure development, involving hotels and restaurants, and show how the facility would complement the city in the long term, in terms of out-of-town bed nights and retail tourism taxes.
Coronado said he plans to meet with Bellamy this week.
• Wigwam: The Wigwam has nine courts and Robert Wojcik, tennis director, said the resort is on Bellamy's list of visits this week. Wojcik said the resort plans to relocate its tennis facility (across the street) west of its present location in the near future.
"Our facility is actually somewhat similar to the facility at the Princess," Wojcik said. "For the next year, it would probably be done with the utilization of what we have now, plus one stadium court across the street. Down the road, I think a whole new facility will be created. There are plans already at the Wigwam to move the facility across the street, so it's actually a timely proposal since the changes would come in the next year or two.
"If that would come to fruition, then the Tennis Channel would be part of the venture and build something that maybe otherwise was just going to be built by the Wigwam. It's pretty much the decision of the Tennis Channel."