The BNP Paribas Open plans to build a third stadium by the 2017 tennis tournament that will also include a museum, building permits submitted to the city of Indian Wells show.
Pending ownership approval, construction is expected to begin immediately following the March 2016 tournament with the expectation that it will be ready for use within 12 months.
The stadium would seat roughly 5,000 and will provide the Indian Wells Tennis Garden with the first tennis museum in the world to be incorporated within a stadium. According to build plans, Stadium 3 will replace the existing Court 3, situated between stadiums 1 and 2 near the Circle of Palms courtyard in the heart of the tennis village.
BNP Paribas Open Chief Executive Raymond Moore initially announced a plan for a themed stadium on the last day of this year’s Master Series tournament, on March 22, and said the project was simply awaiting a green light from tournament owner Larry Ellison. The tournament says it is still waiting for that formal approval, though Ellison spoke about the project in an interview with Bloomberg in early June.
When Moore spoke about the possibility of the project in March, he said a tennis memorabilia assemblage he deemed to be “the finest collection in the world” had been purchased by the tournament, and Ellison later told Bloomberg that some of those objects date back to Elizabethan times.
“So we are pretty much ready to go,” Moore said in March, “but Mr. Ellison needs to make that decision. He’s mulling it over. He told me he will let me know soon.”
While awaiting word from Ellison, the Oracle co-founder and billionaire who purchased the BNP Paribas Open in 2009 for $100 million, Moore and tournament director Steve Simon filed with the city of Indian Wells the necessary paperwork that details what the stadium will look like and how it will function. The City Council has since unanimously approved the plans.
The museum will sheathe the outside of the stadium on the northwest side, creating two floors of glass on the outer layer facing the Circle of Palms and an open pavilion area with two shade structures. Keisker & Wiggle Architects, who have played a vital role in the facility expansion at Indian Wells, will oversee the construction of Stadium 3.
Moore and Simon began discussing the idea for a third stadium not long after Stadium 2 was completed in March 2014. The stadium seats 8,000 and features three fine-dining restaurants, including world-famous Nobu. But Simon has said in the past that the secret to the tournament’s success is the sense of urgency to constantly expand, providing fans with the best tennis experience in the world.
Though not every idea is approved by ownership, with the financial backing of a billionaire owner, organizers have had the freedom to think big. Not having the budget restraints of other tournaments is part of what has made the two-week event in Indian Wells so successful in recent years.
By building a museum at the Indian Wells Tennis Garden, facilities are expected to be open for close to 10 months a year, making the site much more active year-round, which in turn will allow the fine-dining restaurants to operate for much of the year as opposed to just a couple weeks in March. It’s a way to build revenue beyond the BNP Paribas Open, which has grown to become one of the highest attended tennis events of the year, with 456,000 purchasing tickets this year.
The museum will be different from the Hall of Fame in Newport, R.I., Moore said in March. It will instead focus on the history of the tournament and winners in Indian Wells. Details of what it will contain on the inside have not yet been disclosed.
Two Grand Slam tournaments, Wimbledon and the French Open currently have tennis museums, but neither is incorporated into a stadium.
The tennis museum at Wimbledon is the largest in the world, opening in 1977. Visitors can take a guided tour of the facilities and around the grounds, including Court 1, the stadium press room, the players’ lounge and the Wimbledon library. The museum also has memorabilia displays, a theater and has recently upgraded to offer touch screen technology.
At the French Open, the Tenniseum opened in May 2003, housed in a former groundsman’s cottage, and includes a memorabilia exhibit that includes a history of tennis, including photos, paintings, trophies, attire and other items specific to the French Open. Tours are offered daily and a world-class bilingual multimedia library includes posters, books, magazines and a diverse collection of documents and statistics, trivia and other applicable data and information.
The Indian Wells museum won’t be the first time organizers at the BNP Paribas Open have invested in becoming the preeminent tennis venue in the world. The tournament built stands around the practice courts, which has been copied by the U.S. Open, and was the first to run the men’s and women’s tournaments concurrently and the first to incorporate Hawk-Eye line-calling technology during matches, both of which are now commonplace at the top tournaments around the world.
Following that trend, building an on-site tennis museum within a stadium appears to be another next logical step.
Reporter Andrew L. John can be contacted via email at Andrew.John@DesertSun.com and on Twitter @Andrew_L_John.
Article courtesy of The Desert Sun, written by Andrew John