The Star’s Desert by Frances Allen
“Magnificent!” That’s only one of the superlatives used to describe the BP Paribas Open now under way at the Indian Wells Tennis Gardens through March 17.
Named for its presenting sponsor – a major international bank best known in Europe – the BNP Paribas Open at Indian Wells has grown to become the largest ATP World Tour and WTA combined two-week event in the world, offering more than $12 million in total prize money this year.
Each year, the world’s top men and women tennis professionals flock to the Desert for this tournament which, aside from the four Grand Slam tournaments, ranks as the world’s biggest.
While two weeks of unbelievable tennis satisfies most tennis junkies, there are events happening daily on the grounds of the Tennis Garden designed to capture the attention of diehard and casual tennis fans alike. The latest in tennis fashions are available from the Fila retail store; and the latest in precision timepieces from Bulova.
One of the annual events that fans look forward to is Salute to Heroes Night presented by the City of Indian Wells. On Friday, Mar. 8, the Tennis Garden featured a special ceremony recognizing veterans, military personnel, police and firemen. This year, the special event coincided with a mobile exhibit that contain an authentic and meticulously maintained collection of original World War II memorabilia including uniforms, weapons, American propaganda, a restored 1941 Jeep and other historic technological equipment of the 1940s.
Saturday, Mar. 9, was Emirates Day in honor of Emirates Airline, a major event sponsor. On that day, fans can participate in the “Emirates Airline Ball Flight” and “Spot the Cap” promotions, where they can win prizes including round-trip airfare from Los Angeles to Dubai. Fans can also stop by the Emirates Lifestyle Booth, which will showcase elements of Emirates’ iconic lifestyle, such as Cabin Crew members refreshing guests with cold towels, cups of Arabic coffee and snacks such as dates, chocolates and fresh orange juice.
Back by popular demand this year is the BNP Paribas tennis ball recycling program. Held on the weekends, the first 1,000 fans, each day, who bring six or more used tennis balls to the Garden will receive one free can of new Penn tennis balls.
Tennis fans instantly recognize the names of brothers, Bob and Mike Bryan; they are arguably the best doubles team in the history of the game. What is less known is that they also perform as the Bryan Brothers Band, and will do so each night until Friday, March 15 at the Village Stage, a 19,000-square-foot shaded stage erected last year at the Indian Wells Tennis Garden.
Think this tennis venue can’t get any better? We have it on good authority that beginning Monday, March 18, crews will begin work on a $70 million expansion that will include a new, permanent 8,000-seat second stadium, 2,000 additional parking spaces along with two restaurants.
Although the infusion of new money (billionaire Larry Ellison’s) is always helpful, the success of what is now the BNP Paribas Open at Indian Wells didn’t happen over night, or even over a couple of years.
One of the driving forces behind taking a moribund tournament and turning it into the major success it is today is Charlie Pasarell, the former tournament director, managing partner and owner of the BNP Paribas Open in Indian Wells. In recognition of his contributions to the sport of tennis, it has just been announced that Charlie Pasarell has been elected into the International Tennis Hall of Fame; another ace by the former UCLA star.