By John Delong
You’ve heard of concerts in the round.
Now get ready for tennis in the round.
Fans attending the Winston-Salem Open will see a striking difference in the stadium court at the Wake Forest Tennis Complex this year, thanks to a new bowl-shaped seating configuration.
Throw in new, wider seats throughout the stadium – all with seat-backs, for the first time in the tournament’s three-year history – and fans will feel the full definition of comfort and coziness. If you think the first two WSO’s were contested in an intimate setting, wait until you see what tournament officials have done this year.
"I think when people get here they’ll say, ‘Wow, this is neat!’" tournament director Bill Oakes said. "I think people are going to be overwhelmed when they see the different look and feel of this stadium. Since it’s in the round, it appears much more like a permanent stadium than we’ve ever had, and the seating size for individuals is significantly better.
"I’m hopeful that fans will find it as cool as I do."
The new stadium is a product of NUSSLI International, a Swiss company that is rapidly expanding and has become one of the leaders in temporary structure grandstand rentals and construction industry. NUSSLI provides temporary seating for everything from rock concerts to yacht races; among its tennis clients are the BNP Paribas Zurich Open, the Barcelona Open and, in the United States, the BB&T Atlanta Open.
Two-time defending WSO champion John Isner won earlier this year in Atlanta, and he gives the NUSSLI setup his full approval.
"My understanding is it’s the exact same stadium in Atlanta, they just packed it up and brought it to Winston-Salem," Isner said. "It’s a fantastic stadium. It’s not too big by any means, it’s not too overwhelming. A lot of times playing in Arthur Ashe (at the U.S. Open), that’s actually a court I’m not that comfortable in because it’s so massive. But this stadium in particular, I’ve played in it in Atlanta already and it’s a very nice atmosphere."
The new-look stadium will seat about the same as in years past, about 4,200. All the seats will be molded seats with seat-backs. Also, the number of entrances into the stadium has been increased from eight to 12, which will give fans easier ways to come and go as they please.
In another addition to this year's site, fans will be able to comfortably watch players practice from elevated bleachers attached to the back of the practice courts.
"Since we’re putting seats in the corners, we’re able to move more seats closer to the action," Oakes said. "Before it was basically four separate bleachers and we didn’t have seats in the corner. Now with seats in the corners we can move everyone close. I think what everyone will notice is it is even more of an intimate feel. I really do think it’ll be neat for people when they see it."
Oakes said that the Winston-Salem Open has entered into a multi-year deal with NUSSLI, and that even more improvements will be in store in years to come.
"I think looking forward they have other ways to continue to improve that we’re looking at for next year that would provide an even better experience for our fans," Oakes said. "It takes a year for bringing it in and seeing how we need to adapt, so they’re already looking at that. Some of their execs were here earlier this week to see the product installed, and they were really excited. And we are as well."