Future of Sony Open

While 'totally happy,' Sony Open director seeks fan experience upgrades

 

Sony director Adam Barrett was ‘totally happy’ with this year’s tournament but looks forward to upgrades that will ‘enhance the fan experience.’

Special to The Miami Herald

Changes on the way for Sony Open, the ‘fifth major’

Most consider it a compliment when people refer to the Sony Open tennis tournament as the “fifth major.”

But Sony tournament director Adam Barrett wants it to be known that even though he graciously accepts that compliment with a smile, he also wants to put the label into perspective.

Barrett confidently knows he runs one of the world’s top tournaments, but he has too much respect for the four majors — Australian Open, French Open, Wimbledon and U.S. Open — to take anything away from their distinct and lofty status.

“We never set out to be a Grand Slam event,” he said. “The majors are special to our sport with their history and tradition.”

Then he described how the Sony differs from other tennis tournaments.

“We have a great South Florida base and situation that is essential to our sport,” Barrett said.

“We strive to be an international, diverse event with that type of fan base. In that respect and in that area, we want to get as big and strong as we can be.”

And bigger and stronger will happen.

A recent Miami-Dade County vote will allow for improvements to the Crandon Park Tennis Center where the Sony is held, not so much to increase attendance at the tournament but to upgrade the facility and, according to Barrett, “… to better enhance the fan experience and the facilities for the players.”

Bidding on those improvements will go out shortly, and actual construction should start after the 2014 tournament.

Attendance at the Sony Open has been strong through the years, although Barrett is well aware that there are some built-in limitations.

He smiled as he stated a reality: “We have 34 acres, and we’re on an island. There’s only so much parking.”

Total attendance for this year’s tournament was 307,809, which was in excess of 300,000 for the fourth consecutive year. The attendance was not a record, but Barrett pointed out: “We’ve had three years with a record before this.”

This year’s crowds might have been affected by some players not showing up, losing early or being injured.

Those players would include such big names as Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal, Venus Williams and Victoria Azarenka.

Nevertheless, the tournament ended up with Serena Williams, No. 1 in the world, and Maria Sharapova, No. 2 in the world, meeting in the women’s final, with Williams winning. The men’s final had No. 3 Andy Murray, the winner, defeating No. 5 David Ferrer.

“The crowds have been very loud, very energetic,” Barrett said.

Barrett admitted he has heard the whispers about the tournament switching into a clay-court event, but he’s mildly baffled.

“There has been no discussion,” he said.

“Right now, we’re a hard-court tournament, and we have no plans to change. We would be open for conversation if that is what the tours want, but we love our hard-court tournament.”

And then, summing up the two-week affair that ended Sunday, Barrett said: “We’re totally happy.”

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