The WTA tournament in Carlsbad, California (San Diego County) appears to be ready to leave the area after 2013.
Daily Tennis News has learned that the La Costa resort, where the event is staged, does not want to host the event beyond 2013, which makes it very likely that the tournament will move out of San Diego County, as there are no private facilities that are big enough to be able to host a WTA Premier level tournament.
There is one facility that is capable of hosting the event, the Barnes Center near downtown San Diego, which is the site of a number of the USTA national tournaments, but reconfiguring that site to host a pro tournament would be tricky as well as pricey and the last time the San Diego event was sold, no one in the city stepped up to try and initiate a move there.
Last year, Octagon, which owns the event, hired Indian Wells tournament director Steve Simon to manage the event, but recently informed the group that they were no longer going to be able to hold the tournament in Carlsbad as La Costa was opting out.
“We didn’t want to be involved with a lame duck event. Our goal was to build the event over time into something more substantial so we agreed with Octagon to step down from hands on management this year, but would assist in the transition wherever possible,” Indian Wells CEO Raymond Moore told Daily Tennis.
Octagon President Phil de Picciotto told Daily Tennis that there are numerous discussions going on precipitated largely by Wimbledon’s decision to move a week back in 2015.
“There will be one less summer week starting in 2015; Carlsbad is currently on the provisional working calendar for 2014, and unless and until it moves, it is in Carlsbad,” he said.
The Carlsbad tournament lost its title sponsor, Mercury Insurance, after the close of the 2012, which was poorly attended, possibly because it was played just before the Olympics, was forced to change its traditional dates, and had a relatively weak field.
Octagon has brought in its own management team this year and has recruited two top 4 players in Victoria Azarenka and Agnieszka Radwanska. The tournament is now called the Southern California Open and will be played July 27-August 4
Once a stable and very successful event that consistently had sellouts, the tournament began to fall into chaos around 2005, as then co-owners Raquel Giscafre and Jane Stratton turned into a more costly Tier 1 event but could not convince the resort (which has changed ownership a number of times) to build a large stadium with more seating and private boxes, so it could earn more off ticket sales and attract more sponsors.
During the middle part of last decade, La Costa was going through a multimillion-dollar face-lift and adding dozens of new condos, and management there wasn’t sure at the time what it wanted to do with pro sporting events.
Giscafre and Stratton sold the San Diego sanction back to the WTA in 2007, and the tournament shut its doors for two years in 2008 and 2009, but then Octagon bought the sanction from the poorly attended women’s event in Los Angeles and moved the tournament back to La Costa, as it believed that fans there were more devoted to women’s tennis.
However, while the tournament drew a decent number of fans in 2010 and 2011, it lost a significant part of its fans base after it was sold and because it is now held the week before two mandatory WTA stops in Canada and Cincinnati, it has struggled to attract top talent.
For example, two of the sport’s biggest names, Maria Sharapova and Serena Williams, play Stanford, which is held the week before Carlsbad, but skip Carlsbad even though they both own homes in Los Angeles because they don’t not want to compete for a month straight.
Before Giscafre and Stratton sold the designation back to the WTA – which then sold it to Beijing — the USTA had actually offered the co-owners $ 7 million, but the WTA offered more and eventually sold the sanction elsewhere
What was a bit odd about Octagon’s decision to purchase the LA sanction and move it to San Diego was that around the same time it had decided to move its Tier I sanction for the former WTA tournament in Zurich to Cincinnati, which was once a Tier 3, knowing all the while that that having back to back Premier Mandatory events in Canada and Cincinnati hurt the player field in Carlsbad.
De Picciotto said that while he is aware that there is group in Chicago looking to host an event, they are not interested in buying one, but would rather lease it, so at this point it appears they won’t make a bid for the Carlsbad sanction. There is also said to be interest in a WTA tournament in Japan, as that country will lose its Premier level event in Tokyo this year as it’s moving to Wuhan, China.
Last year, Moore and his group did talk to the owners of the now defunct LA men’s event about buying it and moving it to Carlsbad and running a combined event, but the ATP tournament was eventually sold to Colombia.
There are some individuals in the large market of Los Angeles who are interested in bringing pro tennis back to LA, which in 2005 hosted three pro tournaments (including the WTA Championships) but no longer has any.
Carlsbad is part of the US Open Series and the USTA will surely weigh in at some level in attempt to keep the event in the US.