The long-standing ATP stop in Los Angeles appears close to leaving the country, the latest in a line of midtier pro tennis events in the United States on the move.
The tournament, the Farmers Classic, has struggled financially in recent years after eight decades in Los Angeles. Numerous sources said organizers now are close to a deal to sell the event’s sanction to a group in Bogota, Colombia.
|The Farmers Classic has struggled in recent years after eight decades in Los Angeles.
Lower and midlevel ATP events have struggled mightily since the tour five years ago instituted new playing rules that significantly reduced the opportunities for elite players to compete at the lowest rung of the tour. The Los Angeles stop now struggles to get marquee players in its field whereas a decade ago it would routinely get stars such as Andre Agassi — players lured in part through the event paying large appearance fees.
Bob Kramer, the tournament director, did not respond to calls for comment. The Southern California Tennis Association, a section of the U.S. Tennis Association, owns the tournament.
According to the most recently available tax returns for the Southern California Tennis Association, the group lost $989,689 in 2010 and $1.2 million in 2009 after earning $377,675 in 2008. The sources said subsequent losses in 2011 and 2012 were steep, and the organization did not want to continue burning through its declining reserves.
At the end of 2010, the association’s assets were at $3.2 million, whereas at the start of 2008 its assets were $5.2 million, according to the group’s tax returns.
On the ATP calendar, February 2013 will mark the last year of San Jose’s ATP stop; that event sanction is moving to Memphis. The Tennessee city has had a higher-level tour event of its own, but that tournament is moving to Rio de Janeiro. In addition, in recent years, Indianapolis’ sanction for an ATP event was poised to leave the country before it was sold to a group in Atlanta, where the event has struggled to find an audience.
While the lower-level events struggle, some upper-level ATP events are having problems of a different kind. Last week, the combined ATP and WTA stop in Indian Wells, Calif., one of each tour’s elite events, offered to raise prize money $1.6 million, but the ATP did not approve, saying the proposal did not comport with internal rules on how money should be distributed by round.
The ATP board was split 3-3 on the vote, with its three player reps voting yes and its three tournament reps voting no; ATP Chief Executive Officer Brad Drewett abstained. It is believed the tournament representatives were concerned about the ability of other events to match the move.
Meanwhile, the Sony Ericsson Open won a big victory at the ballot box last week and will get $50 million in government funding for a new tennis stadium in Miami.