http://www.chron.com/cs/CDA/printstory.mpl/sports/ten/4296276Oct. 29, 2006, 11:05PM
McIngvale making revisions to Westside Club
Facility to get rid of grass courts; 2007 likely last year for Clay event
By DALE ROBERTSON
Copyright 2006 Houston Chronicle
Westside Tennis Club, home to Houston's only major pro tour event, is heading in a new direction, and will soon have a new name — Westside Tennis and Fitness Club.
Jim McIngvale, the discount furniture king, has essentially given up trying to turn a buck on tennis and will try to grow his club membership by offering an array of new products: a state-of-the-art fitness center, a hugely expanded pool area, baseball batting cages and even senior citizen activities.
His goal is 4,000 to 5,000 total members, compared to his current 1,000, a figure that has been stagnant for a while.
"There's no money in tennis," McIngvale said. "It's taken me 10 years to learn that. We haven't been able to grow the game as much as I thought we could."
A conspicuous casualty of the $4 million-plus makeover will be Westside's grass courts because, he said, "Nobody ever plays on them."
And they're difficult to properly maintain.
For the near term, the changes will have no impact on McIngvale's involvement in professional tennis.
The U.S. Clay Court Championships are set for April 9-15, and Westside will keep its World Team Tennis team, the Wranglers, whom McIngvale says have been a financial success for him and his wife, Linda.
However, the club's contract with the USTA for the Clay Courts is entering its final year and he'll push hard — against long odds, given how crowded the calendar is — to get a hardcourts summer date starting in 2008.
He wants to capitalize on the popularity and TV revenues of the U.S. Open Series and to stop having to keep changing the stadium court between cement and clay, which costs about $400,000 a pop.
With Pete Sampras and Andre Agassi no longer in the possible player mix at Westside, McIngvale doesn't see much financial upside in sticking with a spring clay-court tournament.
"Our date is the week after Davis Cup, and players are spread all over the world," he said. "The best (clay-court) players won't come here because they're already in Europe. It's a tough sell without the big names.
"By the time you pay a $250,000 rights fee, half a million in appearance fees and spend millions on advertising, there's not a lot left.
"People say it's hot in Houston in the summer. But it's hot in Cincinnati, too."
Without the "Wimbledon" grass courts, Westside will no longer be the only facility in the world to offer all four Grand Slam tournament playing surfaces.
It also means the 2002 Davis Cup quarterfinal tie against Spain on the grass was a historic one-time occurrence.
Westside had once hoped to become a semi-permanent home to the Davis Cup in the United States because of Westside's variety of surfaces, but the USTA has chosen to spread the Cup around the country.
Interesting. I wonder if the American players will play Monte Carlo from 2008 onwards?
11-09-2006, 08:47 PM
Interesting. I wonder if the American players will play Monte Carlo from 2008 onwards?The USTA owns the sanction for the tournament & has leased it to various operators (in several cities) over the years. It could lease it to another operator in another city & keep it as a clay court event on the same date in 2008 or it could support the current operators in keeping it in Houston & petitioning the ATP for a new date/surface change.
11-19-2006, 08:31 AM
aw, I happened to take pictures of the grass courts when I went there... and it's true, no one was playing on them :tape:
11-20-2006, 07:47 PM
http://www.tennisserver.comOn another Houston-related note, an email showed up in my mail box this morning providing news that after six years in Houston, the Westside Tennis Club is saying goodbye to the U.S. Men's Clay Court Championships in April 2007. Known as the second-oldest USTA National Championship tournament, behind the U.S. Open, the event was first contested in 1910 and was brought to Houston in 2001 by Jim and Linda McIngvale, who also hosted the Masters Cup in Houston for two years. The McIngvales certainly don't fit the mold of traditional tennis sponsors, but all-in-all they have been incredibly supportive of the sport and extremely hospitable to Tennis Server and other media working to spread the joy of the sport. It will be sad indeed to see ATP tennis leaving Houston.
"Although we have thoroughly enjoyed our relationship with the USTA, we feel that the expense involved in the tournament and the timing of the event on the ATP schedule makes it not feasible from an economic standpoint" said Westside owner Linda McIngvale. "We will continue to be the home of the WTT's Houston Wranglers and hope that we can host future events with the USTA such as the Davis Cup ties in the US."
The final U.S. Men's Clay Court Championship at Westside will be held April 9th-15th 2007 and feature tennis stars like Andy Roddick, James Blake and Mardy Fish.
11-21-2006, 04:28 AM
http://www.chron.com/disp/story.mpl/sports/4349854.htmlNov. 20, 2006, 7:38PM
U.S. clay courts leaving Houston in 2008
By DALE ROBERTSON
Copyright 2006 Houston Chronicle
The U.S. Men's Clay Court Championships will be played for the last time at Westside Tennis Club in April 2007.
Westside owners Jim and Linda McIngvale said the high costs involved in putting on the tournament and maintaining the French red clay courts, plus dramatically declining revenues and the disruption to the club led to the decision to not attempt to extend their contract with the United States Tennis Association.
The USTA owns the ATP tournament and, in effect, leases it to the McIngvales for a $250,000 annual fee. As mandated by the ATP, the event's prize money must increase by 10 percent to $418,000 in 2007 and at least $250,000 more figure to be paid out in appearance fees to the marquee players.
The tournament turned a profit in 2002, when Pete Sampras and Andre Agassi were in the field, and again in 2003 when Agassi returned. But it has lost significant sums the last two springs, Linda McIngvale said.
"People were losing interest," she said. "The clay court draw just doesn't excite the community like it used to."
The tournament has been unable to attract the best clay-court players in the world, most conspicuously Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal. Its dates are inconvenient, following a Davis Cup week and preceding a $2.5 million Masters Series tournament in Monte Carlo.
Jim McIngvale admits it's unlikely the club would host a tournament of any kind in 2008, but he hopes to maintain a relationship with the USTA to possibly bring in future Davis Cup or Fed Cup ties to Houston, or to become part a USTA American tour if one were ever to come to fruition.
He said he has lost "more than five million dollars" with the event, which he brought to Houston from Disney World in 2001. Until the McIngvales became involved, Houston had been without a presence on the ATP Tour since the mid-1980s.
"We've got to have more U.S. tennis superstars" to be successful," he said. "Andy (Roddick) and James (Blake) can't carry it by themselves."
McIngvale said losing Sampras and, this fall, Agassi to retirement contributed to their decision, as did the club's planning to remain involved in World Team Tennis, which requires matches to be played on a hard court.
The annual transition from the clay to a hard court in the stadium has proved logistically difficult and expensive -- $500,000 per turnover when the French contractors come to do the work themselves.
In fact, Linda McIngvale, the club's on-site manager, also said all of Westside's French red clay courts -- except one for a "souvenir" -- would be replaced with either American green clay or turned into hard courts after next spring's tournament, set for April 9-12.
Westside had previously announced it would stress fitness equally with tennis in the years to come and is changing its name to Westside Tennis and Fitness Club. In all, 13 of the current 45 courts will be removed, including the four "Wimbledon" grass courts that were part of the club's "Play the World" marketing strategy. Westside offered all four Grand Slam tournament surfaces.
The McIngvales said they have yet to speak with any USTA officials since sending them an e-mail late last week regarding their intentions.
"They're business people, too," Jim McIngvale said. "They know we've got to do what we've got to do. Nobody in the United States has poured as much money into tennis over the last 10 years as me and Linda have. I hope they're happy to have us in the game."
McIngvale had a bitter parting with the ATP after it decided not to bring its season-ending Masters Cup back to Houston for a third year in 2005, opting instead to sign a huge contract with the Chinese government to play in Shanghai. He said he couldn't foresee a scenario where he would negotiate directly with the ATP for a tournament to replace the Clay Courts.
"We're not big ATP fans, as you know," he said. "But we're huge USTA fans. Hopefully one of these days we'll hook up with them again."
A USTA spokesperson, requesting anonymity because he hadn't been officially authorized to comment, said he was "100 percent certain the tournament wouldn't be allowed to die."
Of the McIngvales, he said: "Obviously, Jim and Linda are two of the biggest tennis supporters in the country. We expect to continue a relationship with them, and the USTA will continue to provide players with the opportunity to play on clay. If we need to move the event, we'll look for a site to honor the history of the event while maintaining the interest the McIngvales generated in Houston."
The tournament dates from the late nineteenth century.
The news of Westside's pulling out caught the USTA by surprise.
Early speculation has the tournament moving back to the East Coast, probably to Florida, Georgia or the Carolinas. Greater Atlanta has been without a major tour event since 2001 and has the most active tennis leagues by far in the country — it's 100,000-plus participants dwarf Houston's total, Blume says — so it might be where the USTA looks first.
A pie-in-the-sky alternative for Houston's keeping the tournament would be River Oaks, but the economics that drove the club off the ATP Tour two decades ago have only become worse. Its exhibition event, the River Oaks International, is a more comfortable fit and can be staged for roughly $500,000, about half what the Clay Courts cost Westside.
The River Oaks name is synonymous with fabulous wealth, but a million bucks for a tennis tournament simply isn't going to fly with the membership, for whom the tournament tends to be an excuse for a garden party.
And it's especially tough to make money the way this particular tournament is structured. As its owner, the USTA pockets all of the international sponsorship money.
02-06-2007, 06:32 PM
The tournament will be on green clay this year :speakles:
Westside going for green
Club switching from red clay; French company sues for breach
By DALE ROBERTSON
Copyright 2007 Houston Chronicle
As a cost-cutting measure, the final U.S. Men's Clay Court Championships at Westside Tennis and Fitness Club, April 9-15, will be played on American green clay, not the photogenic French red clay of the past six springs.
The United States Tennis Association, which owns the tournament, approves of the change, according to a USTA spokesperson. But the French company that built Westside's red clay courts and refurbished them before last year's tournament is not pleased.
Supersol has sued the club for breach of contract, asking for $233,000 in damages.
The firm, also charged with maintaining the world's most famous red clay courts at Roland Garros, is being represented in Houston by Arthur Feldman and Associates. Feldman e-mailed the Chronicle a copy of a contract between Linda McIngvale and Supersol that McIngvale appears to have signed in December, requesting its contractors return to Houston for several weeks this winter to refurbish the courts.
"My clients assumed they had a deal," Arthur Feldman said. "The contract was signed and returned (to Supersol). They planned to be here working (this month). You can't back out of a contract."
McIngvale and her husband, Jim, the Gallery Furniture impresario, own Westside together and she oversees the club's daily operations.
The McIngvales decided last fall not to extend their commitment to the USTA to host the Clay Courts, citing declining interest in the event because of soft fields, problems with maintaining the surface and their desire to reshape the facility as an all-around family fitness venue.
Based on copies of e-mails Feldman also provided, Linda McIngvale later changed her mind about bringing the Supersol team in, blaming the exchange rate between the dollar and the euro, which is near a historic low, for making the project "something we cannot afford to do this year."
The agreed-upon price was 253,352 euros, or approximately $328,000, according to the lawsuit filed last week in U.S. District Court.
The amount sought in damages is presumed to be Supersol's anticipated profits.
Linda McIngvale confirmed the switch to green clay but wouldn't comment on the suit except to say: "They're a little upset, (but) they don't have a case, in my opinion. We didn't have a contract with them. But I'm really not at liberty to talk about any of it right now.
"(The red clay) is a very, very expensive proposition and always has been. We made the decision we'd rather put that money into improvements for our members long term."
A local company will be contracted to refurbish the stadium and show-court surfaces.
A complication for the club has been having to transition from a clay surface for the tournament to hardcourts for the World Tennis Team season.
02-14-2007, 06:00 PM
http://tinyurl.com/2yyzc6U.S. Clay Courts?
There apparently isn't any definitive word yet on the possibility of the U.S. Men's Clay Court Championships moving back to Charleston next spring from Houston, but USTA public relations executive Chris Widmaier said Tuesday from New York, "We'll take due diligence to explore a number of possible locations (for the Clay Courts), but I know Charleston will be on that list."
02-22-2007, 11:42 PM
green clay :smash:
02-25-2007, 04:32 PM
they say the grass courts aren't that well maintained, does anyone know if you can pay to play on them even if you aren't a member?
03-02-2007, 06:03 AM
http://www.chron.com/CDA/archives/archive.mpl?id=2007_4288693Green's good to go
Gayle Bradshaw wears two hats for the ATP, and his other title - the one he calls "my day job" - is executive vice president for rules and competition. In that capacity, he weighed in on Westside's money-saving decision to play the Clay Courts on green clay this year instead of the French red clay.
"We did have time to get word out to the players of the change, so they are all aware of it, and that was our only concern," he said. "The red clay was a bit of a drawing card (for some players), but I'm not aware of any negative feedback, although it might not come to me but rather to our player services people. As long as the players get notified, so they know what to prepare for, there's really no problem from (the ATP's) side."
03-21-2007, 12:56 AM
Green clay acually isnt that bad, i play on it personally.
03-21-2007, 04:08 AM
Green clay acually isnt that bad, i play on it personally.
Me too, I kinda like the stuff.
03-21-2007, 07:12 AM
Me too, I kinda like the stuff.I haven't been sliding around on it in awhile, I kinda miss it.:)
04-01-2007, 05:41 PM
i hope it comes to atlanta....i live about 2 hrs away...i went to te challenger final last year and saw a couple of games before leaving to watch mcenroe,kournikova,couier and novonta.......
04-04-2007, 07:09 PM
Can You say something more about green clay? Is it faster/slower than red? Roddick win in houston, and he play good in this tournament , was the red clay daster than red clay in europe?
Thx to all.
04-08-2007, 05:56 AM
Can You say something more about green clay? Is it faster/slower than red? Roddick win in houston, and he play good in this tournament , was the red clay daster than red clay in europe?
Thx to all.Green clay is faster than red clay, it's more like a slow HC, but it's still clay, you can still slide on it. Before this year, though, Houston was on RED clay, and it was the exact same substance as at Roland Garros. It may have played a little faster, but that's because of the climate and other conditions - they still watered the clay down all the time and stuff like that. I think the reason Andy has done well is 1) he feels comfortable there and it's like a hometown tourney for him with all his friends and family and 2) the field is weaker ;)
anyway, add another interested city into the mix:
Flow would like to bring in more tennis
He's talking to USTA about landing rights to clay-court tournament By John Delong
Sunday, April 8, 2007
Don Flow had a vision to bring Davis Cup tennis back to Winston-Salem.
That vision turned into reality when the USTA awarded the city the quarterfinal tie between the United States and Spain, and the results have been on display this weekend at Joel Coliseum.
Now Flow has another vision - an even grander and more complex vision.
Flow is trying to acquire the rights to the U.S. Men's Clay Court Championships, which will be held in Houston for the final time next week and is now up for bid. If successful, Flow would bring professional tennis back to Winston-Salem on an annual basis, with a week-long tournament that he hopes would become a springtime celebration involving various factions of the community.
The U.S. Men's Clay Court Championships is a sanctioned ATP International Series tournament and has been operated by a private group in Houston for the past seven years. But it is actually owned by the United States Tennis Association.
So Flow has been making his pitch to USTA executives this week while they are here for the Davis Cup.
It's an innovative pitch, too, not just a promise to write a check for the USTA's $250,000 rights fee. It involves the creation of a non-profit organization to run and oversee the tournament, with the profits going to local charities. It involves a commitment to build a tennis complex on the Dixie Classic Fairgrounds next to Joel Coliseum, with a stadium that could be used year-round for other community activities ranging from outdoor concerts in the summer to other non-sporting gatherings.
Flow, who was the underwriter for the Flow Motors Invitational, a non-sanctioned tournament that featured rising professionals in the late 1980s and 1990s, said he is cautiously optimistic that the USTA will go for his ideas and will award Winston-Salem the tournament when it makes its decision in the coming weeks.
"Probably in the next 30 days we'll have a lot more clarity about if it could really happen," Flow said. "I'm encouraged by the way the talks have gone so far. We think we've got a plan they could actually work with, that would work for Winston-Salem and work for the USTA. But they have some fundamental issues in terms of what they have in mind to deal with first, so until then, we'll keep our fingers crossed."
Jim Curley, the USTA's managing director of tournament operations, said that the USTA would like to make a decision by the end of April, which would give the new city 11 months to prepare and would also meet the ATP's requirements for a site change. The ATP would likely approve the new city during meetings at Wimbledon in June.
The date for the U.S. Clay Court Championships is locked into the second full week of April, the week after the Davis Cup quarterfinals.
Three other cities are pursuing the tournament and are under consideration - Charleston, S.C.; Atlanta and Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla.
"I'm not going to handicap it, but I can certainly tell you Don has outlined his vision for this tournament and his vision is intriguing to us," Curley said. "We need to sit down and have further discussions about all of the details and evaluate some of the finer points of his proposal. But in terms of is Winston-Salem in the running for this, the answer is yes. Absolutely. We feel what he's proposing is absolutely intriguing."
Flow, who owns several auto dealerships in the area, took a break from tennis after the last Flow Motors Invitational in 1999. He got the tennis bug again in 2001 and worked with the USTA to bring a Davis Cup World Group qualifier between the United States and India to Joel Coliseum.
He has pursued several Davis Cup ties in the years since and finally landed this weekend's quarterfinal tie against Spain. This tie has been a marketing and financial success, with all 14,453 seats in Joel Coliseum sold out for all three days of play. That makes this tie the largest-attended Davis Cup tie in the United States since 1990, and the third-largest attendance in U.S. Davis Cup history.
Flow said he has seen the positive impact - economic and social - that this tie and the 2001 tie have had on the community. And that has prompted his desire to bring an annual ATP tournament to Winston-Salem.
"I believe we're the largest city in the United States that doesn't have an annual professional sports event," Flow said. "I personally believe that cities, especially cities our size, need events that can develop community pride and community participation and can get the younger people involved. We've had the Vantage, the Crosby, our tournament, other things in the past, and they have been great for Winston-Salem. I think people are looking for that kind of sporting experience again.
"Every year hundreds of people ask me if we could ever have a tennis tournament again, and I've always had to explain that because of how the tennis calendar works, there has been nothing available. But now there is a tournament available, and we're doing everything we can to get it."
The U.S. Men's Clay Court Championships has moved around often in its history - its seven-year run in Houston is the longest run in one city in the past 20 years. Since 1987, it has been held in Indianapolis; Charleston, S.C.; Kiawah Island, S.C.; Birmingham, Ala.; Orlando; and Charlotte (1991-93).
Flow has offered to make a 10-year commitment to give the tournament more stability, and he believes that will work in Winston-Salem's favor.
"Obviously, it doesn't take serious analysis to see that it's in their best interest to have a sustainable long-term clay court tournament, and we're willing to make that commitment," Flow said. "We're talking about a 10-year commitment, but really I would like to see something that was sustained long after that, long after I'm around, that the whole community can invest in.
"Part of our model is to link together the local tennis association, the North Carolina Tennis Association, the Southern Tennis Association and the USTA, so it has deep community roots. What I'd like to see, to be honest, is something on the order of what the GGO (Greater Greensboro Open) used to have in the spring when it really was an event that everyone looked forward to and involved many elements of the community. The GGO was a spring-time event that really brought the community together."
Flow has already worked with city officials on a plan to build a permanent tennis facility in an area near Joel Coliseum. He said that he would underwrite the initial expenses to get the facility built, then would create a non-profit organization to run it from there. That, he said, would enable the facility to be built without any tax money.
The complex would include one stadium, to be built near the fairgrounds grandstand, plus one grandstand court and four side courts. The ATP requires six courts for a tournament.
"Our goal is to build a permanent facility, and it would be multi-purpose and could be used for tennis, music and other opportunities during the course of the year," Flow said. "With the weather the way it is in April, when you look at the seasonal forecasts, 85 percent of the time it is warm, but it can be raining, so we would have to build a retractable roof, basically. Think about a stadium that would be an open stadium as opposed to a coliseum, but think Dallas Cowboys (Texas Stadium). Now they've got the materials you can open and close the roof and it's not that expensive, actually. So if you have heavy wind or rain, you can enclose it to the players but you don't have to enclose everything else.
"And remember, everything else is already in place. You've already got the food court at the fairgrounds set up, things like that. So you're talking about building a permanent facility, and you're talking about building the outer courts. But everything else, the parking, that's already in place."
Curley said that it was important to the USTA to go to a city where there would be long-term stability, particularly since the tournament has moved around so much in the past.
And Curley had kind words for Flow and the job that Winston-Salem has done in both of its Davis Cup ties.
"Winston-Salem has a lot going for it," Curley said. "I think all you have to do is look at what's been done with Don Flow's assistance here with the Davis Cup and how well-received this event has been, and the history of the Flow Invitational that was here for years, and you know that the community can support an event such as this. I'm not concerned about community support at all. I'm not concerned about Don Flow's long-term support of this, either. It's just that we still have to talk in more detail and evaluate his proposal against the others."
All three other candidates have factors working for them, and against them.
Charleston, S.C., has excellent facilities already in place and is the site of the WTA's Family Circle Cup, scheduled for next weekend. If the USTA picks Charleston, that would call for men's and women's tournaments to be held at the same time. Atlanta has a large tennis fan base, but it had an ATP clay-court tournament before and didn't sustain it. Ponte Vedra Beach is the home of ATP headquarters, and would have the best April weather to offer.
"They're all intriguing," Curley said. "Certainly with the U.S. Open and the U.S. Open Series, we're strong supporters of combined events. So a combined event in Charleston is intriguing to us. Atlanta has the largest recreational tennis playing group in the country, and Atlanta has had an ATP International Series event which was successful and the primary reason that event went away had nothing to do with fan support - it had everything to do with their ability to secure a title sponsor. Then Ponte Vedra, of all the sites bidding they would have the best weather. So everyone has their pros and cons.
"At the end of the day, we're going to have to do what we think is in the best interests of our mission, which is to promote the growth and development of tennis in the United States."
Flow and Curley sense that no matter what happens with the U.S. Men's Clay Court Championships, Winston-Salem will continue to be in the mix for future Davis Cup ties.
"Whether or not Winston-Salem is successful in bringing this ATP event here, Don Flow is a close working partner with the United States Tennis Association," Curley said. "Whether the event comes here, we're going to continue to work with Don on ways to grow tennis here in this region. We were here in '01. We're back here in '07. We're in constant contact with Don about what the future holds. So whether it's this event or another Davis Cup tie or Fed Cup or whatever, we're always going to be talking to Don."
04-10-2007, 12:24 AM
Green clay is faster than red clay, it's more like a slow HC, but it's still clay, you can still slide on it. Before this year, though, Houston was on RED clay, and it was the exact same substance as at Roland Garros. It may have played a little faster, but that's because of the climate and other conditions - they still watered the clay down all the time and stuff like that. I think the reason Andy has done well is 1) he feels comfortable there and it's like a hometown tourney for him with all his friends and family and 2) the field is weaker ;)
I heard the Wilson balls they use in this tournament are much lighter than the usual Penn/Dunlop balls that the European clay tournaments employ, which would also help to explain the success a few non-claycourters have had in this tournament.
04-18-2007, 03:52 PM
WEDNESDAY, APRIL 18, 2007 7:32 AM
Family Circle site draws interest for U.S. Men's Clay Courts
USTA ponders the possibility of combining men's tournament with Family Circle Cup
BY JAMES BECK
Is Family Circle Tennis Center seriously and financially interested in staging a men's tennis tournament as a combined or back-to- back event with the Family Circle Cup?
That appears to be the question as the U. S. Tennis Association contemplates the future of its $416,000 U. S. Men's Clay Court Championships that just completed its seventh year in Houston while the Family Circle Cup held its seventh event on Daniel Island.
The USTA appears to be eager to put the Family Circle site on the front burner, because of its world-class 10,200-seat stadium and the possibility of combining the Clay Courts with the women's Family Circle Cup.
"I really think that (a combined event) would be the ideal setup," said David Brewer, the USTA's senior director of pro tournaments, said Tuesday afternoon from Carson, Calif. "A combined event has an allure of its own. We like combined events. They create a lot of excitement."
The USTA already puts on a combined men's and women's one-week summer event in New Haven, Conn., as part of the U. S. Open Series, as well as has a partnership in the two-week combined event at Indian Wells, Calif.
Brewer indicated that the Sony Ericsson WTA Tour's Roadmap 2010 could influence Family Circle's decision since the Family Circle Cup will become a Premier 20 event in 2009 rather than keeping its current designation as one of 10 Tier I events on the tour.
"But we can't say if it (a combined event) is really a good stategic fit for them ( Family Circle) or not," Brewer said. " We need to see if these guys (from Family Circle) are serious or not. The decisionmaking is going to happen pretty quickly. We've given ourselves until the end of April to make the decision.
"We know the folks who run the event. We know the facility," he said about Family Circle Tennis Center, which served as a Davis Cup semifinal site in 2004.
Brewer expects to conduct more talks with Family Circle Cup tournament director Robin Reynolds and Nancy Weber, a vice president of Family Circle parent Meredith Corp. "We want to talk with Robin and Nancy no later than tomorrow," Brewer said. Reynolds was unavailable for comment Tuesday evening.
Arlen Kantarian, the USTA's chief executive of pro tennis, met with Family Circle officials over the weekend while attending the Family Circle Cup, according to Brewer.
Brewer said that for Family Circle to hold a combined event the complex would "need to add a couple of courts and locker room facilities."
Atlanta and Ponte Vedra, Fla., already have submitted bids to serve as hosts for the Clay Courts, while Winston- Salem, N.C., and a different Houston site are expected to turn in their bids before the end of the week.
The USTA owns the Clay Courts' tournament week on the ATP men's tour and is requiring a $ 250,000 yearly licensing agreement for five years as part of the bidding process. Brewer said the
"We need to see if these guys (from Family Circle) are serious or not. The decisionmaking is going to happen pretty quickly.
We've given ourselves until the end of April to make the decision."
USTA set its April deadline for a decision to allow time to present a proposal to the ATP Tour at its next board meeting, which will be held at Wimbledon in late June.
The U. S. Clay Courts were held at Wild Dunes Racquet Club in 1988 and 1989, showcasing then-young players such as Andre Agassi, Pete Sampras, Jim Courier and Michael Chang.
After Hurricane Hugo damaged Wild Dunes in September 1989, the spring event was moved to Kiawah Island for 1990. It then left the Charleston area and ended up seven years ago at Houston's Westside Tennis Club.
Citing financial losses, Westside announced several months before this year's Clay Courts it would discontinue its relationship with the tournament. Ivo Karlovic of Croatia won the singles title Sunday of a tournament that featured James Blake and Tommy Haas. Andy Roddick withdrew because of an injury.
While in Houston for the Clay Courts, Brewer met with officials from the River Oaks Country Club, which already holds a $3,000 non-tour men's event. River Oaks is in the process of submitting a bid.
According to Brewer, Winston-Salem is expected to make a bid that includes construction of a new clay-court facility and stadium court near Joel Coliseum where the recent sold- out U. S.- Spain Davis Cup tie was staged.
Atlanta's bid is based on holding the Clay Courts in Duluth at the old site of the AT& T Challenge, using a temporary stadium. Ponte Vedra, which is headquarters for the ATP Tour as well as the PGA Golf Tour, also would construct a temporary stadium.
Reach James Beck at 937-5540 email@example.com.
This article was printed via the web on 4/18/2007 10:44:28 AM . This article
appeared in The Post and Courier and updated online at Charleston.net on Wednesday, April 18, 2007.
04-26-2007, 08:14 PM
Groups in three cities have submitted bids: Atlanta, River Oaks, Ponte Vedre Beach. Charleston is expected to submit a bid before the deadline; Winston-Salem has dropped out.
Ivo was the last winner in Houston :D But he won't be able to defend it :(
05-08-2007, 02:53 AM
http://www.chron.com/disp/story.mpl/sports/4782892.htmlMay 7, 2007, 7:49PM
Clay Court Championships moving to River Oaks
After seven-year run at Westside, tournament will move across town, not out of it
By DALE ROBERTSON
Copyright 2007 Houston Chronicle
The U.S. Men's Clay Court Championships may be leaving Westside Tennis and Fitness after a seven-year run of mixed results for owners Jim and Linda McIngvale, but it turns out the only top-tier American tennis tournament to be played on clay won't be leaving Houston.
Although River Oaks Country Club was a late, seemingly long-shot entry in the competition to host the event, it has prevailed over at least three other venues on the strength of the swank club's long history of staging successful tournaments and its built-in readiness for 2008.
Representatives of both the USTA and River Oaks confirmed to the Chronicle on Monday that the 97-year-old USTA-owned event will be held at the club next April 14-20. The USTA will make the official announcement today.
"This represents the bringing together of two great traditions," said River Oaks' director of tennis Van Barry, who made his first overtures to the USTA less than a month ago. "The (Clay Courts) have been around since 1910. We've had a tournament since 1931. It's a perfect fit for both of us."
Jim Curley, the USTA's managing director of tournament operations, praised River Oaks' "professionalism" in pursuing the tournament and praised the support Houston gave it over the years it spent at Westside.
"I think it's great news we're staying in Houston," Curley said. "As you know, the U.S. Clay Courts has moved around a little bit. Now that we're able to move it across town, if you will, it retains consistency in the marketplace. We love Houston as a tennis town."
The other cities bidding for the tournament were Atlanta, Winston-Salem, N.C., and Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla. The USTA also wanted Charleston, which already hosts a women's clay-court tournament in April, to consider adding the men, too, but organizers never fully warmed to the idea because of the costs and logistical problems.
ATP approval still needed
Neither the USTA nor River Oaks would comment on the length of the agreement. While the USTA was originally seeking a five-year contract for the sake of continuity, there are changes looming in the ATP calendar starting in 2009 that might impact the tournament's date and status. Presumably, contingencies exist to protect both the USTA and the club.
The River Oaks membership must still formally vote in favor of taking over the tournament and the venue itself still needs ATP approval. But neither is considered a potential obstacle. The ATP would likely sign off on the matter during its meetings at Wimbledon.
"We'll try to get (the ATP) in here as soon as possible to check everything out," Barry said. "They'll have to make sure our courts are 78 feet by 36 feet, the nets are the right height . . . that kind of thing."
The ATP's North American CEO, Mark Young, said in a statement: "We understand that the USTA has reached an agreement with the ownership of River Oaks and we are excited that ATP Tennis will have a continuing presence in Houston. We also want to take this opportunity to recognize and thank the McIngvales for their tremendous contribution to men's professional tennis."
Credit to the McIngvales
Both Barry and River Oaks president John Eads lauded the McIngvales as well for creating the enthusiasm for pro tennis in Houston that made the USTA hesitant to abandon the nation's fourth-largest city.
"We wouldn't have this opportunity if not for the incredible job Jim and Linda did," Barry said.
Added Eads: "We're the beneficiaries of all their hard work."
The McIngvales, who are currently in the process of transforming Westside into more of multi-purpose fitness facility, dropped the Clay Courts one year before their contract with the USTA was supposed to expire. They admit they lost a sizeable sum on their investment in tennis in large part because of the huge expenses they incurred bringing the Masters Cup to Houston in 2003-04, in addition to staging the Clay Courts.
Top players not a fixture
Also, they believe interest in the latter waned because fans became blasé about the draw after seeing the world's top players, including Roger Federer, here in November.
Losing Pete Sampras and Andre Agassi to retirement cost Westside its biggest drawing cards. Sampras advanced the final in 2002 before losing to Andy Roddick, while Agassi beat Roddick for the 2003 title after Roddick had knocked out Sampras.
The Westside and River Oaks fields have been comparable the last three springs save for the presence in the Clay Courts of the third-ranked Roddick, and even he didn't play at Westside in 2007 because of a pulled hamstring.
River Oaks hopes the lure of ATP ranking points will produce an upgraded field, but it remains extremely unlikely that any of the elite European clay-court stars such as Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic — never mind Federer - will deign to play in Houston even with an ATP-mandated bump in prize money to more than $415,000.
River Oaks has been putting up $300,000 total with $50,000 to the winner, compared to the Clay Courts' $65,850.
However, the expected restructuring of the ATP calendar in 2009 could help River Oaks. It's possible the Davis Cup's second round - scheduled opposite River Oaks in recent years - will be moved to the week following Wimbledon, meaning players could have the option of coming directly to Houston from Miami to begin their clay-court preparations.
River Oaks not new to men's tour
Almost from the dawn of Open tennis through the mid-1980s River Oaks was a part of the men's tour, forging an early partnership with Lamar Hunt's pioneering World Championship Tennis circuit. The club's independent exhibition tournament has thrived for the past 24 years, recruiting talent from teenage hotshots to aging superstars by selling the lovely setting and charming intimacy.
The close relationships the members often cultivated with the players, opening their stately homes to them, hasn't hurt, either.
"We're not planning to do anything differently," Barry said.
Having an ATP tournament figures to cost River Oaks considerably more than the independent event at least $1 million, compared to roughly half that in 2007 but no pricey infrastructure improvements were requested by the USTA, thought to be a crucial element in River Oaks' members signing off on the bid.
The stadium capacity will remain at 3,000, some 2,000 less than the one the McIngvales built for $8 million at Westside to accommodate the Masters Cup. A second show court will need about 500 temporary seats, considerably more than the River Oaks International offered.
The club has been contemplating some major improvements, including the possible construction of a garage on the grounds to alleviate its parking problems, but Barry said: "None of that has anything to with this story. We're ready to go. We've got 11 months to work with, but we really don't need 11 months. All the moving pieces are place."
New American red clay courts were put down before the 2005 tournament. While they play extremely slow, comparable, the players suggest, to Northern European venues such as Hamburg, there have been virtually no complaints about the consistency of the bounces.
River Oaks sent out formal letters to its current sponsors Monday to inform them of the change. One significant casualty of the transition will be the support of the Houston-area Lexus dealers. It can't have a presence anymore because Mercedes-Benz pays the ATP handsomely for international exclusivity. And that money go directly into the USTA's coffers, not the tournament's.
Billionaire money manager Fayez Sarofim and Lexus have been River Oaks' most generous supporters over the last 15 years.
"We're extremely grateful to them," tournament chairman David Modesett said. "Without the Lexus dealers and Mr. Sarofim, we wouldn't be in a position today to the take our tournament in a new direction."
The U.S. Men's Clay Court Championships have been played annually since 1910, except in 1928. The Open Era venues:
Westside Tennis Club, Houston
Disney's Wide World of Sports Complex, Orlando, Fla.
Pinehurst Resort & Country Club, Pinehurst, N.C.
Brook Highland Racquet Club, Birmingham, Ala.
Indianapolis Sports Center, Indianapolis, Ind.
Indianapolis Racquet Club, Indianapolis, Ind.
Woodstock Club, Indianapolis, Ind.
RIVER OAKS HIGHLIGHTS
1931: Cotton-broker Jack Norton founds the tournament. Ellsworth Vines, only 19, wins the first title. The legendary Bill Tilden, a former U.S. Clay Courts champion, is in the draw.
1942-45: World War II forces the only hiatus in the tournament's 76-year history.
1961-62: Rod Laver beats Roy Emerson in memorable back-to-back finals.
1970: Clark Graebner claims the first professional title as the tournament becomes part of Lamar Hunt's World Championship Tennis Circuit.
1973: Ken Rosewall comes from qualifying to win the title at the age of 38.
1974: A 34-year-old Rod Laver claims his record fourth River Oaks title, beating 17-year old Bjorn Borg in the final. Arthur Ashe competes in doubles, breaking the tournament's color barrier.
1980: Ivan Lendl wins his first of his 94 ATP titles and his first of three at River Oaks.
1981: Houston's Sammy Giammalva makes his pro debut at 18, fighting through to the final before losing to Guillermo Vilas.
1984: Mark Dickson beats Giammalva for the championship of the club's last ATP-affiliated tournament for 24 years. (ATP-sanctioned WCT events were held at the Sam Houston Coliseum from 1985 through 1987.)
1985-2000: Boris Becker, 17, Andre Agassi, 16, Michael Chang, 16, Pete Sampras, 17, and Roger Federer, 19, all participate in the River Oaks International exhibition tournament. Only Federer, the current world No. 1, gets to the final, where he loses to Magnus Larsson.
2005: James Blake wins the championship, launching a comeback from injuries and a family tragedy. By late 2006, he climbs to a career-best No. 4 in the rankings.
2006: In an exhibition match separate from the main draw, Pete Sampras loses to Robby Ginepri in his first competitive match since he won the 2002 U.S. Open for a record 14th Grand Slam championship.
2007: Monica Seles beats Martina Navratilova in the first appearance by top-level women in the stadium since Margaret Court won the final women's tournament in 1969.
05-09-2007, 11:35 PM
http://www.atptennis.com/en/news/2007/riveroaks.aspU.S. MEN'S CLAY COURT CHAMPIONSHIPS
River Oaks, Texas, U.S.A.
May 9, 2007
U.S. Men's Clay Court Moves to River Oaks
The USTA has announced the 2008 U.S. Men’s Clay Court Championships will move to the River Oaks Country Club, keeping the second longest-running USTA National Championship in Houston. Only the US Open has a longer history. The event has been held for the last seven years at the Westside Tennis Club in Houston where it attracted record attendance and strong fields.
Ivo Karlovic (pictured) won this year's event, played on green clay. The 2008 event at River Oaks will be contested on American red clay.
The U.S. Men’s Clay Court Championships, an ATP International Series event, was first contested in 1910 and held every year since, with the exception of 1928. Former champions at the U.S. Men’s Clay Court Championships consist of many of the all-time greats in tennis. Bill Tilden won a record seven singles titles from 1918 to 1927. Other past winners include Bobby Riggs, Tony Trabert, Jimmy Connors, Ivan Lendl, Mats Wilander, Michael Chang, Jim Courier, Andre Agassi, and Andy Roddick.
“We’re thrilled that the U.S. Men’s Clay Court Championships has found a new home in the River Oaks Country Club and will remain in Houston,” said Jim Curley, Managing Director, Tournament Operations, USTA. “Jim and Linda (McIngvale) have done a wonderful job with the event the past seven years and we expect Houston tennis fans will enjoy the same world-class tennis at River Oaks.”
One of the oldest tennis clubs in the country, River Oaks Country Club has hosted the prestigious River Oaks International since 1931 on red clay, making it the oldest event in North America still played at its original location on its original surface. The club has a permanent stadium that seats up to 3,400.
This year, the club featured a special exhibition where Martina Navratilova played against Monica Seles. Last year, Pete Sampras played his first match since winning the 2002 US Open at River Oaks in an exhibition against Robby Ginepri that was streamed live on the internet on USTA.com. The club also hosted a $50,000 USTA Pro Circuit women’s event in 2005 and 2006.