EDITORIAL: Loss of tennis tournament an ominous sign for city

 IBJ Staff
December 12, 2009
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IBJ Editorial

It’s hard to fathom how Indianapolis lost the Indianapolis Tennis Championships—an event with 90 years of history—without anyone in the city sounding an alarm.

The tennis tournament that started at Woodstock Country Club in 1920 became in the 1970s a critical component of the city’s strategy of using sports as an economic development tool.

IBJ reported Nov. 30 that the tournament is likely to leave Indianapolis in 2010, an unfortunate development confirmed by tournament organizers early this month. Its relatively quiet demise makes us wonder if the city is up to the task of protecting its broad base of sports assets.

The tournament’s longtime home, which opened in 1979 to house what was then the U.S. Open Clay Court Championships, was carved from an old industrial area on the IUPUI campus. It was the first in a string of top-notch venues— including the adjacent IU Natatorium and track and field stadium—built to position the city as a magnet for sporting events of all kinds.

Now the tennis stadium seems destined for the wrecking ball. The university, which has better uses for the land and can’t afford to maintain the facility, also wants to eventually clear away the track stadium, according to a recent campus master plan.

The city’s ability to compete for a range of events in a variety of sports is diminished when key venues and events are allowed to slip away.

It’s not as if the city is standing still on the sports front. It is in line to continue hosting a string of major NCAA championships, including next year’s Men’s Final Four, and of course the 2012 Super Bowl. But the city’s success in attracting such marquee events was built on a foundation formed by the tennis tournament and other lower-profile tournaments and exhibitions that came here more frequently than once-in-a-lifetime or once every four or five years.

Granted, tennis isn’t as popular as it used to be. There are few American stars to drive attendance. But the tournament is apparently viable enough to move to Atlanta, its likely destination.

The loss highlights a major and relatively rapid decline in the city’s stature in the sport. Early this decade, the local tournament was voted by players as their favorite on the men’s professional tennis tour for the 11th year in a row. Its one-time director, Mark Miles, ascended to the level of running the entire ATP tour.

But by all accounts, the city was somehow helpless to prevent this assault on our sports calendar. It’s easy to imagine former Mayor William Hudnut, who was in office when the city’s sports landscape blossomed, rallying the troops and pulling out all the stops to protect the city’s sports turf if faced with the same threat.

In 2010, leadership on a variety of levels seems all too content to let events—and venues—disappear.•


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  1. So much for Eric Holder's conversation about race. If white people have got something to say, they get sued over it. Bottom line: white people have un-freer speech than others as a consequence of the misnamed "Civil rights laws."

  2. I agree, having seen three shows, that I was less than wowed. Disappointing!!

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  4. Say It Loud, I'm Black and Ashamed: It's too bad that with certain "black" entertainment events, it seems violence and thuggery follows and the collateral damage that it leaves behinds continues to be a strain on the city in terms of people getting hurt, killed or becoming victims of crimes and/or stretching city resources. I remember shopping in the Meadows area years ago until violence and crime ended make most of the business pack you and leave as did with Lafayette Square and Washington Square. Over the past 10 to 12 years, I remember going to the Indiana Black Expo Soul Picnic in Washington Park. Violence, gang fights and homicides ended that. My great grandmother still bears the scares on her leg from when she was trampled by a group of thugs running from gun fire from a rival gang. With hundreds of police offices downtown still multiple shootings, people getting shot downtown during Black Expo. A number of people getting shots or murdered at black clubs around the city like Club Six on the west side, The Industry downtown, Jamal Tinsley's shot out in front of the Conrad, multiple fights and shootings at the skating rinks, shootings at Circle Center Mall and shooting and robberies and car jackings at Lafayette Mall. Shootings and gang violence and the State Fair. I can go on and on and on. Now Broad Ripple. (Shaking head side to side) Say It Loud, I'm Black and I'm Ashamed.

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