SBJ/December 13-18, 2010/Events

ATP’s New Haven event flying south to new site at Wake Forest University

The ATP World Tour’s New Haven, Conn., stop is relocating to Winston-Salem, N.C., the second such move by the men’s tour to the South this year.

The newly named Winston-Salem Open at Wake Forest already has dozens of companies signed as sponsors, including three presenting sponsors: BB&T Corp., Hanes and Flow Cos., each of which has a strong local business presence. The 2011 tournament is scheduled for Aug. 22-27.

New Haven
The ATP has seen many of its lower-level U.S. events struggle, including the New Haven stop.
Flow Cos., whose main business is auto dealerships, is owned by Don Flow, who is spearheading the move, which was expected to be formally announced today at a noon press conference in Winston-Salem. The U.S. Tennis Association, which owned the tournament’s sanction, sold it to Winston-Salem Professional Tennis, a nonprofit group that Flow directs. Terms could not be determined, but based on previous sales of lower-level ATP sanctions, a six-figure price is projected.

Construction will begin this week on a tennis complex adjacent to Wake Forest University’s football stadium. The project will be paid for by the university, Flow’s group and private contributions. Capacity at the main stadium will be 3,500, and the facility will have 10 to 12 courts in total. Total project costs were not available, but Wake Forest, as an investor, will have access to the facility.

“The Piedmont Triad market area is the largest metropolitan area without a major league sporting team,” Flow said. There are some minor league clubs and a PGA Tour event in the area.

Flow added that the tournament will be profitable in year one even before selling a ticket.

“Almost every company in our area has committed for five years,” he said.

That should be welcome news to the ATP, which has seen many of its lower-level American events struggle, including the New Haven stop. Earlier this year, the struggling Indianapolis event moved to Atlanta.

ATP Executive Chairman Adam Helfant is scheduled to be at the introductory press conference.

One hurdle the new Winston-Salem event will encounter is convincing players to compete there the week before the U.S. Open. New Haven was an ideal location in that regard because of its proximity to the Open in New York.

To counter any such concerns, Flow has promised that the finalists will be flown on private charter immediately after the matches to New York; the finalists will be given a Tuesday start at the Open at the earliest; and the hardcourt surfaces at the new event will be built to be just like the Open courts. Flow also is offering free housing even after players lose if they choose to train there instead of in high-cost New York.

Jim Curley, U.S. Open tournament director, confirmed that he would be flexible in scheduling the Winston-Salem Open finalists.

The new tournament will offer $625,000 in prize money, less than the 2010 purse in New Haven, though it is likely that significant financial guarantees also will be made to some players to compete.

The Winston-Salem event will remain a part of the USTA’s Olympus U.S. Open Series, the branded circuit of summer hardcourt events.

Tennis is not foreign to Winston-Salem. Flow hosted an exhibition the week after Wimbledon from 1987 to 1999. He also arranged for Davis Cup matches to be played locally in 2001, 2007 and 2008.

Flow said proceeds from the new tournament will fund sports in the city’s public schools.

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