The former college star and resident tennis expert checks in from Sunday's action in C-U.
Apparently it’s always sunny and warm wherever happy-go-lucky David Weiss, Bud Kling, Budge Offer and Jason Nguyen go, as they’ve all traveled from Los Angeles to watch the NCAA Tennis Championships.
In fact, for David and Bud, it’s tradition to attend this prestigious event, as they’ve done so for years. As a result, they’ve been to all of the NCAA championship venues. When asked how our tournament site and setup rates, they immediately light up and begin raving about our facilities.
“This setup is so user friendly for fans and competitors alike. Everyone is so friendly and helpful. (Which for the record, I’ve heard over and over.) Plus, you have six indoor courts all under one roof.”
They seemed in awe of our indoor structure so when I asked how many indoor courts are in L.A. they said, “None.” Now I’m the one in awe. But their favorite part? The fact there’s a farm just south of Tournament Central. When asked about the larger cylinder structure’s name and purpose, my small-farm hometown background kicks in. “That’s a silo where they store grain. And the entire complex is called the South Farms.” “Oh,” they said in unison and decided they’d walk over one day and tour “the farm.”
According to William & Mary College’s men’s head tennis coach, Peter Daub, “Before I came to William & Mary I coached at University of Georgia, so I have experience in running this tournament. It’s always tough as a first-year host because there’s no blueprint other than attending other NCAA Tennis Championships and seeing what they do. But Illinois has taken the ball and run with it and has made it so easy on the players, coaches, trainers and fans as far as accessibility and the fact one can watch several matches without walking more than 10 feet. Some only have to turn around if they’re watching from the top row of the grandstand. Everything is right here, and that is a huge plus.” The key? “Communication, communication, communication.”
Andrew Lawson, University of Illinois facility concessions supervisor, is working up a sweat serving customers. He greets each with a welcome and a smile. The word on the street is that the prices for concessions are so affordable. “A customer told me they’d paid as high as $7 for a bottle of water at other venues. We charge $2. The customers also like the variety of food and drinks they can purchase onsite and at multiple locations so they don’t miss a minute of the action.” Pizza, barbecue, shake-ups, popcorn, ice cream, even mac ‘n cheese. It’s all on the tip of one’s tongue.
Brandon Lenfert, Atkins Tennis Center’s head tennis pro, shared that the coaches love the fact there are eight practice courts at Atkins Tennis Center. “That makes time management so much easier for the teams so they don’t have to travel off site to practice or to warm up before their matches.”
As I started to leave, a familiar scent filled the air. I laughed and said to myself, “The tour has come to them. We really do have everything right here!”