BNP Paribas Open History
Indian Wells Tennis Garden, Indian Wells, California
The Story behind the BNP Paribas Open
The BNP Paribas Open, the most-attended WTA Premier and ATP World Tour Masters 1000 tennis tournament in the world and the largest two-week combined outside of the four Majors (Australian Open, French Open, Wimbledon, US Open).
The event is held annually at the Indian Wells Tennis Garden, one of the world's most beautiful venues for watching the top professionals compete. The state-of-the-art facility boasts a 16,100-seat stadium, the second largest in the world, and seven other match courts spread across 54 acres of lush landscape, which creates a relaxed and intimate atmosphere.
The tournament started as an ATP fund-raising event in Tucson, Arizona before moving to Mission Hills Country Club in the Coachella Valley in 1976 where it benefited from a successful five-year run. The event's connections with the Coachella Valley were nearly broken, however, when the ATP considered moving it to a proposed tennis stadium to be built near Disney World in Florida.
Pasarell, a native of Puerto Rico who had been the No. 1-ranked player in the U.S., was an ATP Board Member and the Director of Tennis at the La Quinta Hotel. He lobbied the ATP Board to keep the event in the Coachella Valley and convinced the owners of the La Quinta Hotel to build tennis facilities adequate for the event. Pasarell's efforts resulted in the tournament's move to the La Quinta Hotel, a new 7,500-seat tennis stadium, and a commitment to make the event "even better" in the future.
When the event moved into its new home in 1981, Pasarell became the tournament director. It enjoyed success in the following years and had several noteworthy finals, the most memorable being the 1982 championship when Yannick Noah ended Ivan Lendl's winning streak of 44 matches, just two short of the men's record.
It was Pasarell's goal for the tournament to grow into a major tennis event at which both top men's and women's competitions would be take place during the same time period. To fulfill this goal, he implemented a plan that was simple in concept but difficult in execution -- to build the event's popularity with the players, the fans, the sponsors and the media through great facilities, attention to detail, strong competition, and wide print and broadcast coverage.
During the six years (1981 - 1986) the tournament was held in La Quinta, it indeed became established as a very popular tennis destination for the players, the fans, the sponsors and the media. In fact, the event achieved such success that it outgrew the tennis stadium and facilities at the La Quinta Hotel. If Pasarell's goals were to be accomplished, and if the event were to strive for "major tennis event" status, he needed to build a larger, more modern and permanent tennis stadium with enhanced facilities.
To construct the appropriate tennis stadium and facilities, Pasarell and long-time friend Raymond Moore established a company known as PM Sports Management, and created a team along with other investors (including Alan King) to design, develop and operate a luxurious resort hotel and tennis facility in nearby Indian Wells. Pasarell signed Newsweek as title sponsor and Indian Wells became home to the Newsweek Champions Cup.
In 1986, construction was completed on the 350-room Grand Champions Hotel (now known as the Hyatt Grand Champions Resort). Its centerpiece was a sophisticated tennis center with 12 courts including a 10,000-seat tennis stadium (with some 7,000 permanent seats), a 3,000-seat clubhouse court, two grass courts and two clay courts. Other facilities included a 3,000 square foot retail sport boutique, a 1.62-acre hospitality village and an 8,000 square foot convention center that also served as a media facility, a player's lounge and a kitchen facility during the tournament. At the time it was completed, the stadium and facilities were truly state-of-the-art.
The new stadium debuted in 1987, which was also the first year that a top women's professional competition (that year featuring Steffi Graf and Hana Mandlikova) was held in conjunction with the men's event (though not concurrently). This foreshadowed the combination of the men's and women's competitions that was essential to meeting Pasarell's goals.
The tournament received significant national and international attention when Boris Becker won the first two events (1987 and 1988) held at the new stadium. The tournament took another crucial step forward in 1990 when the ATP, then under the leadership of Hamilton Jordan, restructured the men's tennis circuit and designated the Newsweek Champions Cup as one of the elite events on the ATP in the category now known as the ATP Masters Series.
The women's tournament went through a somewhat different evolution. Originally a non-sanctioned event, it became an official WTA event in 1989 in partnership with IMG, the Virginia Slims of Indian Wells. In 1992, the women's event was honored when Chris Evert agreed to attach her name to the competition, making it the Evert Cup. In 1997, it was designated as a "Tier 1" event, the top WTA category.
Until 1996, the women's event was held immediately prior to rather than concurrently with the men's event. That situation changed, however, when the ATP and the WTA approved of combining the events. Thus the tournament, then with the somewhat unwieldy name of Newsweek Champions Cup/State Farm Evert Cup presented by Harman International, attained the lofty status of being one of only six Masters Series/Tier I-level tournaments in the world, including the four Grand Slams, that has a combined men's and women's event, a distinction it still holds today. Today, there are only five Masters 1000 & WTA combined events.
This success had its price as the tournament quickly outgrew the Grand Champions grounds. Pasarell now dreamed of a new stadium that would serve as a showplace for the burgeoning event.
The development of the men's Tennis Masters Series events coincided with the completion of the Indian Wells Tennis Garden in 2000, bringing the tournament a new name (Tennis Masters Series Indian Wells) as well as helping it reach new heights in attendance, prize money, television and print exposure, and international status. During its entire existence, tournament attendance has grown from 30,000 to more than 370,000; prize money has grown from $250,000 to more than $11 million; the television audience of the tournament has grown from 25 million homes to nearly a billion homes worldwide; and the facilities have grown from 7,500 seats to a 24-court, 54-acre complex including a 16,100-seat main stadium, two smaller stadiums, 44 luxury suites, nearly 6,000 box seats and first rate ancillary facilities.
Another boost to the BNP Paribas Open came in the form of an increased playing field, which spawned additional days and sessions creating a full two-week event. Now 21 sessions strong with both the men's and women's draws at 96, top players are in competition beginning the first weekend, adding to the excitement and the Grand Slam feel of the tournament.
The next chapter of the tournament was bigger than ever as Pasarell and Moore, with the help of new partners George Mackin and Bob Miller of Tennis Magazine and Patrick W. M. Imeson of Calim Private Equity, LLC, recruited a new team of investors including the United States Tennis Association (USTA) and tennis legends Pete Sampras, Billie Jean King and Chris Evert, to acquire International Management Group’s (IMG) 50% interest in the tournament.
The tournament, which had interest from several overseas investors, was kept in the Coachella Valley because of this powerful and strategic tennis partnership. In addition, the City of Indian Wells displayed their unwavering commitment to the event by purchasing 27 acres of land adjacent to the Indian Wells Tennis Garden.
The tournament celebrated its 35th anniversary in 2010, and in his first few months as owner, Ellison coordinated the BNP Paribas Open "Hit for Haiti" exhibition, presented by Oracle, on the first Friday evening of the tournament. The event featured an incredible 94 Grand Slams titles on the same court with Steffi Graf and Lindsay Davenport taking on Martina Navratilova and Justine Henin in the first match, and Roger Federer and Pete Sampras playing Rafael Nadal and Andre Agassi in the second match.
A comprehensive fundraising effort, let by Oracle, which included on-site, text messaging and private donations resulted in $1 Million being donated to the American Red Cross Haiti Relief and Development fun, which was established to help those impacted by the devastating earthquakes in January 2010 in Haiti.
Continued Development & Growth
Under the eyes of Ellison the BNP Paribas Open continues to set goals and develop as a world-class international sporting event. In 2011, the tournament became and remains the only one in the world to offer the Hawkeye challenge system on every match court. Additionally, in 2012 the event became the first and only ATP/WTA combined event to offer $1 Million in prize money to each of tis singles champions.
At the end of 2011, Charlie Pasarell left his position with the event. Over more than three and a half decades his incredible vision and foresight helped shape the event into what it has become today. In October of 2012, his former business partner Raymond Moore was announced as the new CEO of the tournament and the Indian Wells Tennis Garden.
As part of that announcement Moore stated the goal is to attract 500,000 fans to the BNP Paribas Open by the year 2014. Part of this objective includes the construction of a brand new 8,000-seat stadium to be completed by 2014.