Someone asked me how my blog and newspaper column came to be titled "Bleachers Brew". It's like this, it's an amalgam of sorts of two things: The bleachers area in the stadium/arena where I used to sit when I would watch baseball, football, and basketball games and Miles Davis' great jazz album Bitches Brew. That's how it got culled together. I originally planned on calling it "The View from the Big Chair" that is a nod to Tears For Fear's second album, Songs from the Big Chair. So there.

Sunday, May 30, 2010

On moving a Grand Slam event

I was reading about how French Open organizers are pondering a move of the tennis event away from Roland Garros, it’s home since 1923.

It seems that the event has outgrown its home and with residents and environmentalists challenging plans for improvements, organizers are wondering if the venue should be moved.

It isn’t going to be easy because for one, it’s in Paris. And two, the only other locations will take some driving time and aren’t ready to handle the influx of tourists and fans.

Of course, any plans to move the French Open away from Roland Garros will be met with a firestorm of protest. Personally, I think that organizers and residents should meet halfway. After all, should the French Open move then it’s the loss of the area. The only reason why the real estate value has jumped is because of the Grand Slam event. Let no one else kid you about that. Tourism is up because of the history of the tennis event.

It never is easy to move a popular sporting event or a team out of a venue that it has become synonymous with. But one of the things that I have learned that change is constant and good.

For the longest time, the Blue Eagle Gym was home to the Ateneo Blue Eagles. But when the Moro Lorenzo Sports Center was put up the team no longer practiced there. The facility at the far end of the campus was so much better and had the facilities the team needed.

I guess storied venues do go the way of the wrecking ball. There’s Chicago Stadium, the original Soldier Field, Boston Garden, and there’s Yankee Stadium to name a few. They moved to accommodate bigger crowds and to maximize their earnings. In the era of free agency with pricey contracts, moving to a bigger venue for higher profit is a no-brainer.

The Australian Open has changed venues seven times. Melbourne is the current home and it should remain there for quite some time. It was even held in New Zealand twice!

The US Tennis Open was once held at Forest Hills in Queens, New York. It was at the West Side Tennis Club to be more precise. Forest Hills is an upscale section of Queens. Kind of expensive if you ask me but with the right kind of snobbery for want of a better term.

When the US Open moved to nearby Flushing Meadows in 1978 (22 years ago) it was to a bigger facility. If there were concerns about getting there then it is easily accessible via subway, bus, or taxi. And moving also meant a change in surfaces. In Forest Hills, for the most part, tennis was played on grass. But I think in the last few years there they experimented with clay. But in Flushing Meadows, they make use of an artificial turf that makes for faster balls. Of course there were concerns and protests but look at the decision to move now -- it was the right thing to do.

The neighborhood has seen an improvement but continued immigration (from people who need a lesson in proper cleanliness) but it can on occasion get dirty. With Citi Field (and Shea Stadium before that) nearby it makes up Flushing Meadows-Corona Park. The area is popular with joggers, tourists (also because of the Unisphere that the Mall of Asia copied), and other sports enthusiasts.

The US Open is more boisterous than any of the other Grand Slam events. I know that some tennis players complain about the noise from passing airplanes that take off from JFK or LaGuardia. Maybe because it’s New York that's why it is noisier. It has that rock ‘n roll atmosphere that can pump up a player. When I think of Jimmy Connors comeback in the 1989 US Open that makes my hair stand up. I don’t think I’ve seen that before. He lost to – man, I am not sure now – Jim Courier or Michael Chang. But the place was rocking.

I’ve been fortunate enough to watch the US Tennis Open and work part time in the event (selling programs). I’ve always wanted to watch in Wimbledon, Roland Garros, and Melbourne. All I can take away from those venues and events is what I see on television.

Regarding changes in venues. I think that it’s okay because at the end of the day, it’s the people, the athletes, and the fans who make the venue what it is. They create the memories and the history. At the end of the day, it’s doing what is right for the sport. So the French Open... why not?

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