Reporting Bud Gillett
IRVING (CBS 11 NEWS) – World Team Tennis is bouncing its way back to North Texas.
A new WTT entry is the Texas Wild of Irving.
“I think the people here are starved for tennis. I think this is kind of an untapped market for tennis,” says Jeff Launius, who moved the Kansas City Explorers to Irving to become the Texas Wild.
The league boasts marquee player Venus Williams, who’ll make at least one stop here for the Washington Kastles.
“It’s not exhibition tennis,” according to Launius. “You get their best tennis because there’s money involved, and then you also get them in a little more relaxed atmosphere because it doesn’t affect their world ranking.”
Each team plays seven home and seven away matches, plus a playoff. Launius calls it an international media coup.
“We will have one nationally-televised match, and then that match through agreements with our league will be rebroadcast over five continents.”
The WTT style of tennis is less formal, one set each for men, women, and doubles and mixed doubles…no 5-hour, 5-set matches between two men. The 5 total sets will likely take less than 2-1/2 hours. The local draw, Launius says, will be doubles partners Bob and Mike Bryan of Davis Cup fame.
The Wild will play outdoors at Irving’s Four Seasons Resort Hotel, which relishes the challenges of the shorter matches.
“It’s a short format. The matches will be quick, people will be very, very comfortable,” says Robin Scott, director of sports.
The court will be utterly transformed, fences will come down, temporary seating will ring the court. The Championship Court will essentially become a bowl.
“You’d be surprised, we can build a stadium that can hold over 2,000 people and there won’t be a bad seat in the house,” according to Scott.
The city of Irving offered $400,000 to put the Wild in Las Colinas. Greater Irving and Las Colinas Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Chris Wallace thinks it’s money well spent.
“We will see a positive return on that,” he claims, given the economic success of an unrelated tennis tournament there last year. “Just that tournament alone was worth around $600,000 direct and economic impact for Irving and the region. That was one tournament. So we think this is an entire month of matches. And you’ve got to consider that Irving brand attached to the team and 7 other major media markets around the country,” according to Wallace.
Wallace adds its unusual for a city to spend that kind of money for what’s essentially publicity, but in this case the business model is ideal. “It’s a great coup for us to win World Team Tennis in Irving.”
The team will play in July, between Wimbledon and the U-S Open; outdoors at night. It will likely be hot. But as Launius points out, the Texas Rangers will be playing at night, too.
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