When Winston-Salem Open tournament officials talk about bigger and better things to come in 2012, they mean it literally.
Plans are in the works to increase the capacity of the Harold and Mildred Southern Stadium, which is the tournament’s main show court. That will translate to bigger crowds, since several sessions of the inaugural 2011 tournament were sold out.
"We’re hoping to be about 15 percent larger next year, so that’ll put us right about 4,500 or so for capacity," tournament director Bill Oakes said.
Oakes said the inaugural tournament drew just under 40,000 fans for the week this year.
The good thing is, the additional capacity will be achieved without sacrificing any of the atmosphere in the main stadium.
"I think everybody was real pleased with the intimacy of the stadium this year," Oakes said. "We’ll have that same intimacy next year. Plus there are still some things we can do to improve the spectators’ experience, which we’re working on. We’re refining a hundred different little things to make the customer experience better."
Tickets for the 2012 tournament, which is scheduled for Aug. 19-25, should be on sale in the coming weeks, as soon as the seating charts are finalized.
Oakes also said that plans to build a permanent stadium structure are proceeding on, but the temporary seating stadium is necessary for at least one more year.
"The permanent structure just takes a long time between design and construction," Oakes said. "We’re beginning the design phase now but there’s no way we could complete it in time for 2012. The earliest we could complete it is 2013. But there’s no timetable. It’s just going to take time to put everything together and it’s just physically impossible to get it done by 2012."
Other than that, Oakes continues to be amazed by the impact that the tournament has had in its brief existence.
"I’m amazed at the number of people that have reached out to me or the rest of the staff or the board about how excited they were about having the tournament here and how much they’re looking forward to 2012 and beyond," Oakes said. "A couple of our board members have told me about people who didn’t have a chance to come to the tournament mentioned to them how they should have made time, and they’re looking forward to coming next year.
"So we hope the fans who came this year will come back and we’ll attract new fans next year as well."
Stay tuned for several major announcements about the tournament, including some exciting player commitments, in the coming weeks.