Monday, March 15, 2010

The BNP Paribas Open Improves Dramatically Under New Ownership

By Victoria Hoe (SMBA '11)

Just back from an amazing weekend in Indian Wells, I am struck by the drastic improvements made in tournament organization at the BNP Paribas Open. Well acknowledged to be one of the most important events in the tennis calendar (outside of the Grand Slams), Indian Wells is a Masters 1000 event with 128-player draws on both the men's and women's side. The Indian Wells tournament has a long history in the Palm Springs area, but was recently purchased by Oracle co-founder Larry Ellison for over $100 Million.

This is my third year in a row attending Indian Wells and out of all the tennis tournaments I've attended around the world, it is definitely one of my favorites. Nestled amongst the desert mountains of Southern California, the Indian Wells Tennis Garden sneaks up on you; a small town outside Palm Springs is a seemingly odd place for the second largest tennis stadium in the world. The vibe on the grounds of the tournament is one of a large country club, which is one of the events' most endearing qualities and also one that I give Larry Ellison enormous credit for reworking.

Even though his purchase of the event was only finalized a few months ago, he has succeeded
in rebranding the event in many ways. The concessions and sponsor tents were renovated and clearly marked with dramatic, eye-catching signage. The practice courts were lined with new bleacher seating, which was a much appreciated addition for those without tickets inside the main stadium. The tournament also added seating around many of the outer courts, a welcome upgrade to those looking to take advantage of all the great action during the opening weekend by walking around from match-to-match. The tournament also improved its non-tennis entertainment with live music around the grounds, daily autograph sessions for fans, and a "KIDS Zone," clearly taking a page from the US Open's model of all-day, first-class entertainment.

Overall, Larry Ellison's unique touch is felt throughout the event already and his experience in operating first-class sporting events clearly rings through. Nischita Shetty (SMBA '11) also attended the event on Saturday, March 13th and enjoyed it thoroughly. I hope to return to Indian Wells many more times in the future, as it is one of the years best.

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