SEVEN DAYS: How did the event come to be?KYLE ROSS: It goes back to the first time that we brought pro tennis to Vermont, back in 2007, when we had the FedCup; it was U.S. versus Russia; Venus Williams was here, we built a 4,500-person stadium, and it sold out wonderfully. The whole town got behind it and they continue to talk about it.
SD: Tell me more about the legacy of pro tennis in Vermont.KR: Oh, yeah, we’ve been walking down the street, putting up banners, and there are two generations who start talking to us about pro tennis here: The older crew, 50-plus, they start talking about the Head Classic, which was back here in Stowe from 1983 to 1987, and they talk about how they saw Ivan Lendl and Brad Gilbert. And you get a younger crew. They mention, ‘Oh, I saw tennis back in the day,’ and they’re referring to the 2007 event. Tennis has a long, strong history here.
SD: What makes Stowe a good host for this tournament?KR: There’s a statistic (which I have no source on) that says Stowe has the most tennis courts per capita in the world. Topnotch Resort hosted the FedCup and the Head Classic … Beyond that, Stowe Tennis Club is thriving in the summer. There are a lot of private courts, as well. It’s a community where people are at leisure and they have lots of time to hit the courts.
SD: What are some of the challenges to getting this first event up and running?KR: Yeah, logistically and operationally, we were starting with a great partner in the Stowe Mountain Lodge, but there were no courts, no stadium and no players. We got the full green light on this in May — it was a late start — and then we had nothing. We were just resolving the permitting last week and the stadium got [finished] two days ago.
SD: How much are you paying the players, and where does that money come from?KR: Let’s just say five figures, and it comes from our pocket to start. We’re hoping to recoup it through sponsorships and ticket sales.
SD: What is the level of tennis — who are some of the players?KR: Well, we’ve got Reilly Opelka, he’s 6-11. He’s got a beast of a serve — it’s consistently at 140 [mph], awesome kid. I would put it in the bucket of world class. I mean, it’s not [Roger] Federer, it’s not [Rafael] Nadal, but if those guys have an off day, anyone at this tournament can knock those guys out.
SD: Can you tell me about the new stadium?KR: It is cool, it is intimate, it has the capacity of 2,751, and it has grandstands on three sides. We have three sections of seating, and we left one entire baseline with no stands, so you can see the court and all of the Stowe ski trails. Another section is the Spruce Peak Viewing Lounge, where you can have a drink and stand up there and look down on the court. Even the highest seat in the grandstand is considered a court-side seat at most other tournaments.