SBD/March 16, 2012/Events and Attractions

Larry Ellison Considering Options For Growing BNP Paribas Open Tennis Tournament

Tournament on pace to set record by attracting more than 375,000 fans this year
The BNP Paribas Open tennis tournament is "on pace to attract more" than 375,000 fans this year, which would "shatter last year's record" of 350,000, according to Leighton Ginn of the Palm Springs DESERT SUN. But tournament Owner and Oracle Founder & CEO Larry Ellison has his "sights set on attracting" 500,000 to the Indian Wells Tennis Garden. In order to accomplish that, Ellison said that there will be "added parking and building on Stadium 2 to create a permanent structure to provide more comfort for the fans." If the tournament "does swell" to 500,000 fans, it will attract more than the '11 Wimbledon (494,761) and '11 French Open (429,105) events, but trail this year's Australian Open (686,006) and the '11 U.S. Open (658,664). Ellison said, "We have a goal to get 500,000 without changing the character of the tournament. We don't want it to be more crowded and more difficult. ... We want to maintain our position as the No. 1 Masters 1000 tournament." With a prize pool eclipsing the $11M mark, the BNP Paribas Open is the "richest of the elite Masters 1000 events" on the ATP World Tour and the WTA premier mandatory events. What distinguishes the four majors from the BNP Paribas Open is the "draw size." The majors have a 128-player draw in singles, while the BNP Paribas Open has a 96-player singles draw with the top 32 seeds "receiving first-round byes." By adding 32 players to the draw, the BNP Paribas Open "could be a full two-week event just like the majors." However, Ellison said that he "hasn't considered" that expansion yet. Ginn notes another expansion Ellison is considering is "adding clay courts to possibly open a tennis academy" (Palm Springs DESERT SUN, 3/16).
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