Drexel hosting squash events as tool to strengthen programs
Starting Thursday and continuing through Oct. 12, the 26,000-student private school in Philadelphia plays host to the Delaware Investments 2012 U.S. Open Squash Championships. The event draws 48 of the world’s best men’s and women’s players to compete for $185,000 in prize money. This year’s tournament is the second year of a three-year deal between Drexel and U.S. Squash, the governing body for the sport in this country and whose headquarters are in New York.
The event ties to Drexel launching its own men’s and women’s squash programs in the fall of 2011. For the spring season in 2012, they began play in the Kline and Specter Squash Center, a new $1.5 million facility that opened in February. Both teams are members of the College Squash Association, the governing body of intercollegiate squash, a sport not sanctioned by the NCAA.
|Fans at Drexel will have an up-close view as players compete in a portable, glass wall enclosure.
Spectators sitting in the first row are two feet from the competition, according to Eric Zillmer, Drexel’s athletic director. For fans sitting farther from the action, video boards provide closer views and replays. U.S. Squash rents both the court and the screens for the event.
Ticket prices range from $10 to $95 per session for a premium-seat package covering the cost of food and drink, including beer and wine. There is also a fan fest component with retail vendors and skills competitions set up in the arena.
The cost for Drexel to produce the event runs into the six figures to pay staff for ticketing, security, ushers and food service, Zillmer said. The school provides those services in exchange for the free marketing exposure it receives through U.S. Squash’s advertising of the event. “We treat Drexel as a presenting level sponsor in all of our collateral,” said Kevin Klipstein, CEO of U.S. Squash.
Before last year, the U.S. Open was held at a variety of smaller venues, including both Symphony Hall and the Harvard Club, where only 200 people could get in the doors, Klipstein said.
Big picture, school officials would like to see Drexel become the permanent home for the event. It would help the sport grow and bring greater attention to Drexel as it pursues student athletes who otherwise attend Ivy League schools to play squash, Zillmer said.
As was the case in 2011, this year’s U.S. Open semifinals and finals, set for Oct. 11-12, will be streamed live on ESPN3.
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