Column: Indian Wells truly has become the fifth Grand Slam
It's really mind-boggling.
A small tournament that began 40 years ago in the Coachella Valley is today the fifth largest tournament in the world under the ownership Larry Ellison, CEO Raymond Moore, and Tournament Director Steve Simon.
About the time the tournament ends the plans begin for the following year with a tournament committee and staff of administrators (8), accounting members (3), box office (7), sales (2), retail (1), player services (2), travel packages (2), full time (12) and seasonal (18) operations workers, public relations (1), stadium court promotions (15), a volunteer program (3) that is phenomenal with hundreds of volunteers, special events and concerts (1), and Indian Wells Tennis Garden Tennis Club staff members (20).
The breakdown of just the volunteer committee chair-people is enough to make your head swim with people managing: administration, ambassadors, ball kid coordinators, club suites, credentials, gates, information/programs, match statistics, media hospitality, player tickets and concierge, private housing, player/VIP transportation, renewal tent, shuttles/special events, ushers, volunteer coordinators and more.
Since the Indian Wells Tennis Garden opened in 2000 and continued to grow from the second largest tennis stadium in the world with seating for 16,100. The amenities include 12 broadcast booths, 44 stadium suites and an 8,000-square foot food commissary. And last year a new "Stadium 2" was born with 8,000 seats, six broadcast booths, and three fine dining restaurants.
The site includes: two 19,000-square foot shade structures, 29 world class courts (eight with the Hawkeye system), four acres of outdoor exposition space, a full service year-round tennis club, four box offices and 121 total acres.
Add in the umpires, WTA and ATP supervisors, Hawk-Eye review officials, and men and women tour players, (96 in each singles draw and 32 teams in each doubles). Add in 48 players in each men's and women's qualifying singles tournament and the magnitude of it all starts to mount.
More workers I haven't mentioned include security, parking staff, vendors, concession food staff, ball kids, entertainment, etc.
In 2014 more than 430,000 fans attended this event, and over $373 million impacted the Palm Springs area.
Every year more and more people are enthralled with the tennis experience they receive, and the numbers continue to rise.
What will they add to the experience next year? Mixed doubles, 3-D large screen monitors, retired greats greeting you as you enter the grounds? Your guess is as good as mine.
The players and fans love it. The vendors, the workers, the City of Indian Wells and the Coachella Valley benefit greatly and love it. And in my mind this event has become the fifth Grand Slam.
Chris Howard is a local USPTA Tennis Professional with over 40 years in the racquet and fitness industry. He can be reached at 928-642-6775 or firstname.lastname@example.org.