L.A. Event Seems Colombia Bound

The Farmers Classic has spent 8 decades in L.A. but is now contemplating a move

(from Sports Business Journal, November 12, 2012)After nearly eight decades, the Farmers Classic, a mid-level tournament in the Association of Tennis Professionals (ATP), is facing extinction.  The event has struggled since the ATP enacted new rules that discourage top-tier talent from competing in tournaments like the Farmers Classic. The classic was once a common stopping point for stars like Andre Agassi, but now it routinely fails to feature top names and draw revenue-creating crowds. The tournament, which is owned by the Southern California Tennis Association (SCTA), had close to $2 million in losses during 2010 and 2011.

However, as the Farmers Classic and the SCTA continue to hemorrhage money, a suitor for the classic has emerged in Bogota, Colombia. If the event were to swap cities it would join a growing list of tour stops, which have moved to new sites. Recently tournaments in San Jose, Memphis, and Indianapolis have found new homes. San Jose lost its event to Memphis after the Memphis tournament was moved Rio de Janeiro. The Indianapolis classic also nearly left the country before it went south to Atlanta, where it is still facing financial trouble.

As the ATP attempts to solve these woes they must also keep an eye on their upper-level tournaments as well. Recently, a top-tier event in Indian Hills, California voted to increase payout to its champion to $1.6 million. The ATP in a 3-3 vote vetoed this move, with the three players’ representatives voting yes and the three tour representatives voting no. The split vote stems from an ATP rule, which was violated by the purposed payout increase, as well fear that other tournaments couldn’t support similar payouts. Many now feel that if these tournaments are going to survive the ATP, they might have to alter their rules yet again, to allow prominent players to return lower-tier tournaments, while also receiving bigger payouts at the larger ones. Or the ATP itself, much like its L.A. stop, might face extinction.