View Full Version : Season-Ending Event Plans For New Feature: Fans

Oct 19th, 2003, 11:32 PM
Season-Ending Event Plans For New Feature: Fans
By Adrianna Outlaw

There's a tennis cover-up about to take place in Los Angeles. A year after miniscule attendance marred the WTA Tour's season-ending tournament's debut at the Staples Center, tournament organizers have made several changes in an effort to attract the masses missing in action last year. The most obvious change is the 165 foot banner advertising the event that will cover the side of the Staples Center.

Such public promotion may be the most visible alteration for the November 5-10th tournament, but the changes aren't merely cosmetic.

Known as the Home Depot Championships last year, the tournament has a new title sponsor and is now known as the Bank of America WTA Tour Championships presented by Porsche. Formerly staged as a 16-player single-elimination event, the tournament now features a round-robin format, the doubles draw has been cut in half from eight teams to four teams and day sessions, which generated disappointing attendance last year, have been eliminated. As a result, fans are ensured of seeing at least six of the top eight women in the singles draw in every session except for the semifinals and final.

AEG, which serves as tournament co-promoter with Octagon, began work on the 2003 tournament weeks after Kim Clijsters conquered Serena Williams, 7-5, 6-3, to claim the 2002 tournament title and snap Williams' 18-match winning streak.

According to a published report in the SportsBusiness Journal, AEG installed a staff of five full-time sales people for the tournament in January and reduced ticket prices. This week marks the beginning of the company's $400,000 ad campaign to promote the event. Their efforts have paid off to this point as ticket sales have already surpassed all tickets sold for the 2002 tournament. AEG chief marketing officer Shawn Hunter told the SportsBusiness Journal's Daniel Kaplan that the event has already earned as much revenue as it did by the first day of the 2002 tournament.

"We are feeling much better about where we are today," Hunter said. "Knowing we still have the bulk of the buying window ahead of us."

The $3 million season-ending event may be the most lucrative tournament in women's tennis, but it provided a paucity of people in the stands during a disappointing debut at the Staples Center in Los Angeles last November. At times, it seemed there were almost as many people on court as there were in the 20,000-seat arena.

The season-ending championships, formerly known as the Chase Championships, made its debut in Munich at the Olympiahalle in November, 2001. But the move to Munich did not attract the top players, media coverage was limited and attendance was disappointing. Two-time U.S. Open champion Venus Williams withdrew from the tournament less than a week before it was set to start citing a wrist injury, Martina Hingis was sidelined while recovering from knee surgery and Monica Seles, who was stabbed during a match in Hamburg, Germany on April 30th, 1993, maintained her promise of never playing in Germany again in the aftermath of the assault.

In March of 2002, the WTA announced the tournament had moved to Los Angeles. Lindsay Davenport believes it is imperative the WTA establish one site as the long-term host of the tournament to establish stability for the players and visibility for fans and media.

"You've got to try and establish a foundation and keep it in one place for a couple of years," Davenport said last year. "I think they (WTA Officials) really don't have a five-year plan; they don't really know what's going to happen and we have to figure it out as soon as possible."

Tournament officials are hoping the Staples Center proves to be a suitable home for the event.

Oct 20th, 2003, 03:51 AM
Indeed, the ad campaign has begun. I saw a really nice TV ad for the WTA Champs during the Lakers game on Friday night. They never even aired TV ads in LA last year. Glad to see they are actually promoting the event.

Oct 20th, 2003, 02:58 PM

I was called by one of the five full time sales people at the end of September. I was shocked they were doing that, but atleast I got my pick of tickets early.