More Than Money Can Buy
On the one hand, it was a bold move: naming the USTA National Tennis Center in New York — home of the US Open and the world’s largest public tennis facility — after Billie Jean King, and forgoing possibly millions of dollars a year in naming rights.
On the other hand, it was simply the natural — and the right — thing to do.
Some experts say the USTA could have realized $4 million to $5 million annually if it had decided to let corporations bid on the naming of the NTC. But, just as it did in 1997 when it named the stadium court after Arthur Ashe, the USTA took the high road, honoring a tennis legend and trailblazer in both sport and society. And it’s believed to be the first time a major sports venue has been named for a woman.
While USTA officials say there had been brief discussions in the past about selling the naming rights, they never went so far as to solicit any bids. USTA Chairman of the Board and President Franklin Johnson proposed naming the NTC for King back in March, then in July, the board of directors voted unanimously to do so.
It’s refreshing to see another example of this sport doing the right thing. Few people have meant as much to this sport as King has. And the fact that King, a product of public-park tennis, now has her name on the 46.5-acre public facility that is home to some of the best tennis in the world is a testament to how this sport sees itself, and how confident this sport is in its future.
Our mission here at Racquet Sports Industry is to tell you how you can make more money in this business. But sometimes, this business needs to be about more than the money.
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About the Author
Peter Francesconi is editorial director of RSI magazine.