What happens in Vegas doesn’t have to stay in Vegas
“We had a great time and would love to do it again” - Mike and Bob Bryan, 5-time Grand Slam doubles champions commented after playing platform tennis for the first time
A public relations concept turns out to be arguably the most memorable event in platform tennis history.
Just one week before the National Championships, from March 5th through 9th, platform tennis put on a show at the Tennis Channel Open for the entire nation to watch via live television.
The Tennis Channel Open is an annual ATP Tennis Tournament held in Las Vegas and features many of the best players in the world. Lleyton Hewitt, Marat Safin, Marcos Baghdatis, Robby Ginepri, and 5-time grand-slam winning doubles team – the Bryan Brothers are a few of the top-billed participants.
The Open is televised live for the week and also features coverage from the world “paddle” (not platform) tennis championships, and exhibitions from the nations top players in activities such as air hockey, tennis racquet stringing, wheelchair tennis, a fast-serve competition, and more.
Just over 18 months ago, platform tennis promoter Jason Gray had an off-the-wall idea. He wanted platform tennis to have a booth presence for the thousands of passers-by to learn more about the game. Furthermore, Gray wanted to set up a platform tennis court on the grounds to have platform’s best players compete on national television.
Gray’s first dabbling into paddle promotions occured in 2004, when he invited the former tennis grand slam doubles champions, Luke and Murphy Jensen, to compete again platform’s National Champions, David Ohlmuller and Chris Gambino, in the touted Battle@Beckett in Cincinnati, Ohio. The event was well-attended and drew great local press in the Ohio area. In 2005, Gray and promoter/court builder David Dodge began the Premier Cup- an exclusive eight-team cash prize, round robin event pitting the bestmen in the game against each other. The annual event has continued each year since with great competition and success.
After months of contemplation, Gray approached the APTA Board of Directors in May of 2007 with his plans to set up a platform tennis court at the 2008 ATP Tennis Channel Open in I as Vegas. Seeing the promotional value of the event, the APTA contributed $5,000 towards the site fee costs and sent Jean Kempner, along with Gray, to secure a contract with the Tennis Channel.
David Dodge of Premier Platform Tennis had already agreed to bring a court superstructure 2,000 miles from Philadelphia to Las Vegas if the APTA approval was secured; and, on March 4th, Dodge and his crew did just that.
The Tennis Channel gave platform tennis a tennis court located 100 feet from the 8,000 seat center court stadium. On that court, Dodge set up the court superstructure- complete with lighting. Platform tennis was also given a 10′ vendor booth.
The neighboring booth to platform tennis was a company called Sport Court. T.J. Love, the general manager of Sport Court, Las Vegas asked Gray if he would like Sport Court to set up a temporary playing surface on top of the tennis court- within the platform tennis superstructure. Gray agreed and thus the orange and blue surface you see in the photos on the right.
Love said, “We had never provided a court for platform tennis before. After we saw how it looked and hearing how well it played, we are looking to open up our market to expand to platform tennis.
On Wednesday, March 5th, 24 platform tennis players arrived in Las Vegas. Some were National Champions, some were top-notch instructors, and some came out simply to support the sport and their friends.
Brian Uihlein, Todd Ward, Mike Marino, Mike Cochrane, Mike Rahaley, Brian Heil, Matt Garavaglia, Rod Workman, Peter Berka, David Caldwell, Blake Cordish, Mark Kebe and Jason Gray performed dozens of free exhibitions to 200+ enthusiastic tennis spectators.
APTA President Mark Fischl, Board Member Beach Kuhl, Executive Director Ann Sheedy and Jason Gray manned the platform tennis booth for five days from moning until late in the evening. Hundreds if not thousands of spectators grabbed up free Premier Platform Tennis pens, note pads t-shirts and other promotional items.
Members of Four Bridges Country Club came out to support Gray: Barry Rudell, Bob Spencer Pierre Dommestrup and Kerry Snyder.
Tennis Channel Tournament Director David Egdes had the difficult task of coordinating the entire tournament event. On several occasions, he visited the clinics and platform tennis booth. He said, “We were pleasantly surpised with the professionalism and organization of the entire platform tennis staff From the ongoing clinics, to the booth management, raffles, and impressive talent, platform tennis was the most organized vendor we have ever had at the event.
Tennis Channel Facilities Operation Director Andres Borowiak amplified the sentiment saying, “We didn’t know what to expect from the platform tennis staff. It was nice to partner with such a professional organization and we look forward to your return next year.”
As the ATP tennis tounament proceeded, platform tennis beagn to receive more and more national television exposure. During the first couple days, Gray would receive word that the behind-the-court remote controlled production camera would be going live within one hour. Sometimes it did… and sometimes it didn’t.
As the week progressed, platform tennis began to recieve more and more television coverage on the Tennis Channel’s 2 million household subscription clientele.
For more on this event see reference source.
Source: Platform Tennis Magazine, Vol. 9, Issue 5, May, 2008