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UPDATE: Tennis Center set for summer demolition

April 30, 2010

The Indianapolis Tennis Center on the campus of IUPUI will be demolished this summer, before and after its official closing on Aug. 5, university officials confirmed Friday afternoon.

IBJ reported Friday morning that IUPUI was set to announce the demolition, which will bring an end to the former home of the Indianapolis Tennis Championships.

The decision to demolish the tennis center—including the 10,000-seat center-court stadium, the indoor tennis courts and the outdoor tennis courts—stems from the intersection of several events, including the expansion of the NCAA headquarters in White River State Park, IUPUI officials said in a news release.
 
Those events have created an opportunity for IUPUI to redesign the area of campus that is home to the tennis center on the school’s east edge as well as the Natatorium, the Carroll Track and Soccer Stadium, the Herron School of Art and Design, and the National Institute for Fitness and Sports, the release said.

The IU Board of Trustees recently approved the expansion of the IUPUI sports complex garage directly to the south of the existing garage where part of the tennis complex now resides. A garage with an estimated 1,300 spaces is projected to break ground this winter.

What is not clear is what will happen to the roughly 900 dues-paying members of the Indianapolis Tennis Center or the U.S. Tennis Association’s regional junior training center, which is housed there.

USTA officials, when contacted Friday, were unaware of IUPUI’s plans to demolish the tennis center this summer.

The timing of the closing of the tennis center will enable summer programs to be completed, IUPUI officials said. The tennis stadium is expected to come down this summer and the indoor tennis courts after Aug. 5, it said.
 
While IUPUI officials said they are interested and supportive of a relocation plan for the tennis center, they said the school can neither acquire new land nor commit to new construction expenses.

Larry McIntyre, IU’s director of media relations, confirmed Friday morning that he and Tom Morrison, Indiana University’s vice president of capital projects, arrived in Indianapolis on Friday afternoon to discuss the project and make a formal announcement.

In December 2008, IUPUI unveiled a 20-year master plan that called for demolishing the tennis center on the campus’ eastern edge to make room for a performing arts center and another building that would house a 6,000-seat convocation center and basketball arena.

School officials said those plans remain intact but it is unclear when construction of the new facilities would begin.

Sources close to the university said Friday that the new facilities will be available for a number of NCAA championship events such as wrestling, volleyball and other NCAA functions. The NCAA also could get use of the parking facilities, sources said.

The NCAA began work on a $35 million, 130,000-square-foot addition to its headquarters in White River State Park adjacent to the tennis center this spring to accommodate the organization’s growth. But the NCAA may need even more room to grow, sources said.

“Given this city’s relationship with the NCAA, that would be a fabulous use of the facility,” said David Morton, president of Sunrise Sports Group, a local sports marketing firm. “As far as I know, it would be a first-of-its-kind relationship.”

But Morton questioned where IUPUI would come up with the estimated $50 million to $75 million needed to construct a facility that would meet the university’s and NCAA’s needs.

“Just because you take something down doesn’t mean you have the resources to put something else up,” Morton said. “IUPUI has two premier sports facilities in their track and field stadium and Natatorium, and they have always had difficulty finding funds to maintain them. So you have to ask, 'How will they financially deal with a new facility?'”

A capital campaign would likely be needed and the NCAA could potentially contribute to the project.

IUPUI’s master plan also called for demolishing Carroll Track & Field Stadium, but officials within the school’s athletics department said that plan has been put on hold because adding track to the school’s sports roster is being contemplated. School officials have also discussed demolishing the stadium, but leaving the track and multi-purpose infield in place.

When it was constructed in 1979, the Indianapolis Tennis Center was one of the pillars of Indianapolis' push to make itself a sports capital. The tournament was a hotbed of corporate hospitality for many years. Attendance often reached 100,000 for the weeklong event. It hosted the ATP Tour tournament formerly knows as the RCA Championships for three decades.

Following the 2009 tournament, which later became the Indianapolis Tennis Championships, folded due to financial difficulties. The event was moved by the ATP Tour to Atlanta. With the loss of the tournament, IUPUI officials said they could not longer afford to maintain the facility.

Still, it won’t be easy for tennis fans to say goodbye to the venue that hosted the tournament, which traces its roots back to the Woodstock Country Club in 1920. The realization has hit home, tennis sources said, that high-profile professional tennis has likely disappeared from Indianapolis for the long term.

“It’s really sad,” said Robert Vane, Mayor Greg Ballard’s press secretary. “That was such a great event for a lot of years for this city.”

From the 1980s up to 2001, the tournament was voted the top ATP Tour event by the players a record-setting 11 times. But as the ATP tweaked its schedule and promoted a summer tournament in Cincinnati, the local tournament began to slide in prestige.
 

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